AS A MEASURE OF EFFICIENCY
A CRITICAL STUDY OF CLASS-ROOM PRACTICE
ROMIETT STEVENS, PH.D.
TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
CONTRIBUTIONS TO EDUCATION, NO. 48
, C&otambi a
NEW YORK CITY
Copyright, 1912, by Romiett Stevens
The author desires to express grateful appreciation for the
professional co-operation of individuals and groups of individuals
who have made possible this study in class-room efficiency. First
of all my acknowledgments are due to Dr. James E. Russell,
Dean of Teachers College, through whose encouragement and
aid the Department of Secondary Education was enabled to
make the stenographic reports that serve as a basis for the in-
vestigations ; also to Dr. Julius Sachs, Professor of Secondary
Education, and to Dr. Frank McMurry, Professor of Elementary
Education, whose guidance and advice have been invaluable
throughout the progress of the work. I also acknowledge most
gratefully the courtesy and true professional spirit manifested
by the principals and teachers in the various schools selected for
detailed observation and class-room practice.
PART I. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF A STUDY OF QUESTIONING i
PART II. THE EFFICIENCY OF INSTRUCTION AS MEASURED
BY THE NUMBER OF QUESTIONS ... 8
Chapter I. Nature of the investigations in class-room
Chapter II. Efficiency of instruction as measured by a
large number of questions . . .16
Chapter III. Efficiency of instruction as measured by a
smaller number of questions . . 45
PART III. THE EFFICIENCY OF INSTRUCTION AS MEASURED
BY THE QUALITY OF THE QUESTIONS . . 72
APPENDIX. STENOGRAPHIC REPORT OF AN ENGLISH LESSON 87
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF A STUDY OF
This report is a study of one small phase of class-room pro-
cedure the use of the question. It is a critical study of class-
room practice rather than the promulgation of a theory. The
motive in its presentation is twofold : to turn the searchlight of
inquiry upon some significant tendencies in our teaching, and to
suggest opportunities for constructive work in a neglected field
in the training and supervision of teachers.
That it is a neglected aspect of training is proved by the fact
that so little has been written about questioning. There is not
in educational literature sufficient bibliography on the subject to
be formally recorded. Fitch's little pamphlet on the "Art of
Questioning " deals with the technique of the craft of teaching,
and Reinstein's " Die Frage im Unterricht ' n is a brief treatise
in the same vein with excellent suggestions regarding the use
of analytic and developmental questions in foreign language work
and mathematics. In our own country there have been only
occasional chapters on the art of questioning in books of
method. 2 The importance of the art and its constant application
in teaching make this omission the more surprising. In view
of these facts I trust that the investigations recorded in this
study, and the deductions drawn therefrom may be considered in
the light of pioneer work in this particular field of practice.
It seems to be very generally assumed that teachers know by
a sort of intuition when to ask questions and how to ask them
that if the content of the lesson and the general plan of presen-
tation have been adequately plotted, the questions will in some
way adjust themselves to the needs of the moment. Teachers
1 Reinstein, Die Frage im Unterricht, Leipzig, 1903.
*De Garmo, Interest and Education, Chapter XIV.
Betts, The Recitation, Chapter III.
Strayer, The Teaching Process, Chapter XI.
2 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
are rarely at a loss for questions in fact it seems that the first
consideration with many is ability to ask them rapidly. The
situation as I have found it since I have been making a study
of the subject, makes me appreciate the attitude of the youthful
teacher of history who said with assurance upon accepting her
first position, " Oh, I'm going to ask questions so fast that the
pupils will have no chance to think of anything.". It is a fact
that teachers do use the question as a means to bridge gaps and
kill time during a class hour, thus perverting its legitimate and
valuable function as an educational agent.
The question and answer type of recitation, when rightly used,
is more fruitful for the teaching process than any of these three
recognized media of instruction, the topical recitation, the written
lesson, or the lecture. The topical recitation is a method em-
ployed for repeating facts that are presented and systematized
by someone else; the written lesson is a test of the facts a stu-
dent possesses and, at best, his method of classifying them;
the lecture is a " pouring in " process.
The question and answer recitation may become a conversation
hour between teacher and pupils, a period of richest opportunity
for true education, i.e., the " leading out " of what is in the mind
of the pupil. It can be a time when the mind of the teacher
comes into closest touch with the will and the emotions of his
pupil, guiding and directing him towards standards of thought
and action far beyond the ken of youth. It can be a time of
richest opportunity for the teacher to ascertain just where to set
his pupils adrift in thought life to do independent intellectual
work in accordance with their ability, and so to grow in the
power to think and to act for themselves. It can be the time
for the teacher to discover the possible avenues of a pupil's own
initiative and to give him the right impetus.
The use that a teacher makes of a recitation period reveals
very clearly his aims and purposes in teaching. After all, it is
what he actually does in the class room, rather than what he
aims to do, that counts in the education of youth. If a teacher's
ulitmate aim is the " acquisition of knowledge," then it is rea-
sonable to expect that his class work will reflect that aim and
the tendency towards it will be manifest in the framing of his
questions. I hardly need to add that not every question need
bristle with " ultimate aim," but it is certainly true that if he
The Significance of a Study of Questioning 3
possesses an honest purpose in his teaching, that purpose will
be manifest in his intercourse with his pupils ; it will give color,
however faint it may be, to his questions. If his ultimate aim
is " harmonious development of all the powers," then again it
is reasonable to expect that his class work will reflect that aim,
and it is right for us to seek traces of it in his questions. If
his ultimate aim is " social efficiency," it is likewise true that
his class work will reflect that aim. It is impossible to realize
the ultimate aim unless the successive steps, or the immediate
aims, point in the direction of the ultimate aim.
When a high school principal says that the aim of instruc-
tion in his school is to make his boys and girls good citizens,
and in the same school the physics instructor says his aim in
.teaching physics is to get his pupils into college, and the history
instructor says his aim is to teach history, it becomes a very
interesting study to get down to the actual reactions of pupils
and teachers in that school; to see just how the history teacher's
practice fits his aim, and how the physics teacher fulfils his
object, and how both of them, working for the unity of the
school, approximate the standards set by the principal. Then
when it chances that we find both physics and history teachers
spending all their energies in quizzing, day after day, upon facts
set forth in text-book lessons in the " hearing " of predigested
or partly digested facts it is obvious that the man who says
his aim in teaching is to get his pupils into college is probably
the only one whose practice approximates his theory.
It seems a travesty upon the science of education to claim
to make " good citizens " by the current class-room practice of
hearing text-book lessons. When all is said and done the class
rooms are the units of the school, and the practices of the class
room are the factors that count in educational realization. The
efficiency of a school or of a system of schools must be measured
by the efficiency of its class-room practice; the thing that the
pupil is doing is the thing that counts.
When we find a true teacher at work in a class room we gen-
erally find that he is using the question and answer recitation
for a distinct educational purpose: he seeks through a series of
skillful questions to draw forth from his pupils certain groups
of facts related or unrelated; he then gives the pupil the incen-
tive to assort his facts and put them together in new relations,
4 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
converting them into potential factors in his experience ; he helps
him to make over a mass of dry facts into living knowledge.
The mechanical teacher seeks in his questioning merely to drive
home a certain daily assortment of facts gleaned from the perusal
of the text-book lesson. The teacher who is a master of the
art of questioning knows how, by the use of the right question
in the right place, to teach his pupils to acquire and classify
knowledge. If he is not a master of the art, if he cannot him-
self be clear and logical in his questioning, he fosters in his
pupils negative habits of work, poor associations, and careless
With the scientific teacher, the conversation hour is the time
for versatility in effort to establish ideals, to form habits of
thought and action, to do any of the many things pertinent to
the development of the unformed or crudely formed habits of
the youthful mind. With the mechanical teacher it is continu-
ously a period for pumping facts into or out of the storage
reservoir of the mind. There is a story of an Ohio school teacher
who asked of her class one day a question that did not draw
the prompt response she expected. With some surprise she
turned to one of the boys, saying, " You know what I want you
to say, Johnnie; why don't you say it?" Johnnie replied, "I
know what you want all right, but you ain't asked the question
what fetches it." This teacher was pumping for facts, and the
youth, wi-cr than she, refused to yield up his store until the
teacher had performed her task properly.
Possibly one reason for the general defects in our method of
using the question and answer is due to the very casual attention
paid to the subject in our training of teachers. In most training
classes, two lines of instruction are strongly stressed, namely, the
fund of knowledge and the psychology of teaching. A school
emphasizes the necessity for a fund of knowledge, requiring that
a certain proportion of time in the stage of preparation be given
to the content studies in order that the teacher's experience may
always be broader and richer than any possible needs of his
class. The school also emphasizes the importance of the psychol-
ogy and theory of teaching, requiring students to make applica-
tion of their psychology or theory in selecting and adapting from
their fund of knowledge certain portions for the immediate needs
of the class room. In concrete form this last phase of work is
The Significance of a Study of Questioning 5
embodied in a lesson plan, which gives variously the psychological
aims of the lesson, the content, and a brief outline of the manner
of presentation. This accomplished, the student-teacher is fre-
quently sent to meet his class, leaving the immediate connection
between the plan in his mind and the experience in the mind
of the child to be met through a series of questions. These ques-
tions may be so inspiring in their origin that they stimulate the
mental life of the children to just the right degree of vigorous
activity, or they may, in themselves, wholly defeat a nobly con-
ceived psychological aim of the lesson.
For these reasons I believe the subject of questioning should
have a place in the training of every teacher a place that is
comparable in importance with " fund of knowledge " and psy-
chology. Since it is so largely the medium by means of which
the principles of psychology and the fund of knowledge are tied
together to further the educative process, it stands to reason that
it is a point in the training of teachers where thoughtful atten-
tion should be centered. Young teachers should not be left to
do haphazard work in questioning, but they should be made
familiar with the functioning power of different types of ques-
tions, and should know how to incorporate in the plan of a
lesson a framework of questions, possibly not more than eight
or ten in number, that will indicate conclusively the intended
values of the lesson. If the lesson is to have any aims and
values, these must be apparent in the questioning, otherwise
they remain things of theory in the note-book of the teacher.
The entire range of questions can, for obvious reasons, never
be prepared before entering the class. It is impossible to antici-
pate the crossroads and the byways through which the teacher
may be obliged to journey in order to guide his pupils to a
camp ground for the day. Any teacher who attempts to follow
a rigid sequence of questions is hopelessly lost, and all spon-
taneity is swallowed up in " method." However, there is a rea-
sonable course between total absence of preconceived method and
total absorption in such method. There is an art in questioning
that can be acquired by study and practice. The art of question-
ing well is a high attainment in a teacher's method. Proficiency
is not to be expected of novices in the profession, yet it should
be a possible attainment with practice of the most conscious and
intelligent sort. Practice, however, mere practice will not
6 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
accomplish the desired end; many a teacher questions hourly
during every day of a school year and is no more skillful than
when he began. When a teacher conscientiously makes study of
the subject, analyzing and criticizing his own attempts, trying
and failing, and trying again, it is possible to develop technique
in questioning, just as it is possible to develop technique in
any other art. It is absolutely essential to bring conscious atten-
tion to bear upon the subject before one can command the habit
of questioning well.
Although we recognize the existence and the importance of
several different types of recitation, I believe it is safe to say
that eight-tenths of the school time is occupied with questions
and answers. The first question the teacher asks after a class
enters the room serves to give a vigorous prick to the attention
of the group, and to bring forward into consciousness the masses
of experience that are likely to be needed for the work of the
hour. For example, a class may have just come from a period
of German, where every faculty was strained to understand,
to give expression, to incorporate for the first time certain new
constructions and idioms of the foreign language. And now,
after an interval of five minutes, another teacher aims, by one
direct question, to throw into the background all thought of the
German, and to bring forward another mass known as geometry,
as by the pressing of a button. Plato named the question well
when he called it the " torpedo's touch." Sometimes, at the close
of several hours of class work, and after a prolonged series of
questions, the mind fails to respond to this kind of stimulus.
We find that the attention of the pupils lags; then the teacher
is forced to wield his weapon with even greater vigor, so that
the intellectual powers of the poor pupils are fairly prodded to
action, just as the vitality of a jaded horse is stimulated by the
spurs of an ambitious rider.
We know something of the effect of a question upon ourselves
when we are listening to a lecture. Our interest and attention
are naturally with the speaker; we make ourselves most recep-
tive; we sit back for a comfortable and enjoyable hour. Then
if the lecturer suddenly pauses and frames a good question, the
effect is instantaneous whether the question is directed at us
individually or at the world in general. What happens in the
gray matter of the brain may be left to the psychologist to explain,
The Significance of a Study of Questioning 7
but we know perfectly well what our experience is. Whereas
interest and attention were present before the question came,
their nature now is somewhat different. We have suddenly been
called upon to make quick associations of ideas, and possibly to
give expression to thought, both sets of activities requiring a
degree of mental vigor not exercised when we were mere listen-
ers. The " torpedo's touch " has been applied.
In our class rooms children are being brought up on this kind
of mental stimulus, exercised with so little discretion that there
is a continuous tendency to over stimulus of certain qualities,
generally of the more superficial sort, to the utter neglect of the
more valuable qualities. While fully cognizant of the importance
of the question as the legitimate implement of the teacher, designed
by its very nature to be perhaps the greatest medium of instruc-
tion, I believe it is generally used too vigorously and too thought-
lessly, thus defeating the very purposes for which it was designed.
If the purpose of the question is to provoke thought and evoke
expression, can the result be other than negative when a teacher
of history in one class period of forty minutes asks one hundred
and fifty questions, and gets one hundred and fifty answers, with
an average of more than three questions and three answers per
minute? With such breakneck speed what chance can there
be for assimilation or association of ideas, and for orderly ex-
pression? The nervous pace of the American people is set in
just this way by thousands of our teachers during every day of
That my assertions regarding present-day practice in the use
of the question and answer recitation may not be purely theoretical
or derived merely from impressions received during cursory obser-
vations, I have made personally a set of investigations of prevalent
practices in the use of the question and answer in typical schools
in and around New York City. The results of these investiga-
tions are set forth in the following chapters.
EFFICIENCY OF INSTRUCTION AS MEASURED
BY THE NUMBER OF QUESTIONS
NATURE OF THE INVESTIGATIONS IN CLASS-
My investigations touching the teacher's use of the question
as a medium of instruction have covered a period of four years.
I have observed classes in different types of schools, public and
private, and grades from the seventh grammar through the last
year of high school. In selecting teachers for observation, I
have always asked for the best teachers in the school, so that
the results of my observations reflect the work that is acknowl-
edged to be above the average. Twenty lessons have been steno-
graphically reported in order that I might have some accurate
black-and-white records of class work for detailed study.
There has been heretofore a lack of studies of actual class-
room practice except by way of casual impressions received and
notes taken during personal observation of a lesson. There has
been a want, too, of accurate and permanent records of every
word uttered during a class period so that lessons could be ana-
lyzed and studied for their intellectual and psychological values,
as definite pieces of literature. It was for the purpose of furnish-
ing black-and-white records of facts as a basis for study that
these stenographic lesson reports were made. It was necessary to
get absolutely away from the radiance of a good teacher's pres-
ence and the sympathetic interaction of the personalities of pupils
and teacher, and to sit down in the privacy of one's study with
the cold hard facts of the intellectual " stuff " of the lesson, in
order to get anything like a systematic approach for the estimate
of values in questioning. It is far from my intention to depre-
ciate the qualities of sympathy, personality, inspiration, and " in-
The Investigations 9
teraction," but these estimable characteristics alone do not con-
stitute the framework of the educative process. There must be
first of all a firm foundation of the content of instruction some-
thing worth while to teach and consistent methods of teaching
it and then sympathy gives life to work, and inspiration gives
By means of the stenographic reports, then, we may be able
to analyze a lesson for any of its functions or values that can
be measured by spoken words. It is the purpose of this study
to analyze for questioning alone. Content, plan of lesson, methods
of assigning work, aims (" utilitarian," " cultural," " social," or
" efficiency "), are not considered except as they may be reflected
in the questioning.
The first reading of a stenographic lesson is generally dis-
appointing. This is due, I think, to the fact that it is so different
from a " model " lesson with which we unconsciously compare
it. The stenographic lesson seems void and flippant by contrast.
A model lesson is a creation of the mature, well-drilled mind
of its teacher-author, who, knowing his goal, his time-limit, his
material and his tools, shapes his lesson as a unit, as complete
and perfect a unit as he can conceive. It is not so with real
lessons. The teacher in the class room must always reckon with
the element of the unexpected ; the lesson report reflects it. There
are all manner of exigencies to be met in the conduct of a real
lesson, and these " asides," interruptions, and repetitions make
the actual report seem less complete, less serious, but much more
natural than the model lesson.
The stenographic reports are to all intents and purposes accur-
ate. There are certain limitations in the best congressional re-
porters when they are called upon to use the technical vocabularies
of our class rooms with the speed required to keep pace with
nervous teachers and high-strung pupils. There is additional
difficulty encountered through the habitual carelessness of children
in the use of spoken English. "Mouthing" of words, trailing
sentences off into nothingness, leaving sentences unfinished, these
are some of the difficulties the reporters must meet. The reports
have in every case been returned to the teacher for correction
of words, and for insertions where the stenographer lost words.
If the report seemed to the teacher to be wholly unfair because
of the stenographer's incapacity, it was destroyed.
IO The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
The stenographic reports are quoted freely in the following
pages. The criticisms are in no way personal to the individual
teachers, for each of whom I have the most sincere respect. In
selecting them for these studies, I have consciously chosen repre-
sentative teachers in the different schools and in different subjects.
In every case the presence of the stenographers was an ordeal
that was met with courage and unselfishness. Under the cir-
cumstances, conditions could never be wholly normal. Loyalty
to the profession and intelligent appreciation of the needs of the
profession prompted the acquiescence of the teachers in the con-
fessedly trying experiments. I trust that the discussions will be
accepted in the same professional spirit, since they are in no
way criticisms of individuals, but rather a presentation of char-
acteristic features in teaching.
In addition to the series of twenty stenographic reports of
lessons, I have made two different studies in observation: the
first, a series of one hundred random observations in various
subjects of the curriculum for the purpose of counting and noting
the number and the nature of the questions ; the second, a series
of ten observations of selected classes, each class having been
followed through the activities of an entire school day for the
purpose of studying the nature of the question-and-answer stimu-
lus in the aggregate as it is administered to school children daily.
The first series of one hundred observations made at different
times and in different schools, for purposes of recording question-
ing activity, is shown below. Every class observed is reported
accurately, even if it chanced to be largely a laboratory period
or a reading lesson in the literature of a foreign language. If
there were no questions asked during the period a zero repre-
sents the fact.
The Investigations n
SHOWING THE NUMBER OF QUESTIONS EECORDED TOR A SERIES OF
ONE HUNDRED EANDOM OBSERVATIONS IN Six SUBJECTS
OF THE HIGH SCHOOL CURRICULUM
English Latin History Science Language 1 matics
69 105 41 122 81 165
129 75 142 86 60 70
70 66 125 54 151 86
68 61 94 O 4 119 35
94 77 64 73 123 116
74 42 90 71 29 120
113 112 60 88 176 85
68 90 53 34 s 121 77
88 101 61 15 116 78
39 122 97 105 88 93
97 96 47 98 110 130
74 98 66 86 10 84
120 90 93 97 O 5 105
49 82 61 93 98
89 76 46 56
102 88 104 68
55 80 111 89
1 In the Modern Language column the classes reflecting high questioning
activity used the modern method of teaching, requiring pupils to speak
the foreign language. It is the type of work represented on page 31.
Where few questions are recorded, there was translation or written work,
the language not being used orally.
3 An unusual lesson because twenty-five of the thirty-four questions were
asked by the pupils. The instructor encouraged questions, selecting with
excellent judgment certain of them for experimentation and elabora-
tion. The result was that the lesson developed an impetus born of real
interest. I mention it because this lesson was unique in the series of one
8 This lesson was one of a very few in the series where the text-book
was used for consultation during the recitation. In most cases the text
was closed and put away, the pupils being expected to reproduce the con-
tents. It was a pleasure to find classes encouraged to use their text as a
book of reference.
* Lecture by teacher.
12 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
The second series of ten studies represents the questioning
activity of particular classes throughout an entire school day.
In each observation, the class was accompanied from the hour of
assembly until the time of dismissal, and the questioning activity
was minutely recorded. My purpose in making this series of
observations was to find out the kind and amount of intellectual
stimulus meted out to our pupils by the questions, and what it
means when reckoned in terms of a day's activity, or a week's
SHOWING THE QUESTIONING ACTIVITY OP PARTICULAR CLASSES
THROUGHOUT AN ENTIRE SCHOOL DAY
1. FIRST YEAR HIGH SCHOOL. CLASS PERIODS: 40 MINUTES
9:25-10 German 176 176
10 -10:40 English 88 88
10:40-11 :20 Algebra 120 120
11:20-12 Latin 61 61
12 -12:40 (Lunch period.)
12:40-1:20 Science 71 71
1:20- 2 Gymnasium period (floor work, no
Notes on 1, showing the nature of the worlc and types of questions employed :
1. GERMAN (176 questions). The questions and answers were short, of
the sort necessary to carry on conversation in German, and to give drill
in the use of vocabulary and forms. The following are some of the ques-
tions asked, just enough to show the trend of the work and the type of
Was ist dasf (Edelweiss.)
Gretchen, hast du das Edelweiss gesehenf
Paul, kannst du das Edelweiss sehen?
Kannst du das Edelweiss erreichenf
H (88 questions). After thirteen minutes spent on a spelling
exercise, the lesson began with a discussion of fables.
What is the <!iftVn-nee between a myth and a fable?
Have you ever read any fables?
How many have read Aesop 's?
y is it that when people study mythology they are so much inter-
ested in Greek mythology?
To what source do we look for Greek mythology? (Homer.)
3. Ai.r:Ff<MA (lL'0 questions). These were largely upon the analysis of
Bome problems in factoring, where questions followed each other closely
and answers were brief.
The Investigations 13
4. LATIN (61 questions). Short questions upon construction such as:
What does the phrase " a sinistro cornu " mean!
Why is the verb in that sentence in the singular!
What case is " hostibus "f
What is the antecedent of " Quod "f
5. SCIENCE (71 questions). These were of a developmental nature.
In these five class periods of forty minutes each, without deducting time
for the change from class to class, the assignment of new work, etc., etc.,
the total time is 200 minutes, and the total number of questions recorded
516, so that the rate is about 2.58 questions, and 2.58 answers per minute
for each of the 200 minutes.
2. SECOND YEAR HIGH SCHOOL. CLASS PERIODS : 45 MINUTES
History 93 93
German 29 29
Mathematics 116 116
Latin 66 66
English 68 68
3. FIRST YEAR HIGH SCHOOL. CLASS PERIODS : 45 MINUTES
English 113 113
Mathematics 35 35
Music 34 34
Ethics 52 52
Latin 75 75
English 39 39
4. SEVENTH GRADE. CLASS PERIODS: 30 MINUTES
History 76 76
Mathematics 85 85
English (in two periods) 97 97
Modern Languages (French) 65 65
Science (geography) 88 88
5. FIRST YEAR HIGH SCHOOL. CLASS PERIODS : 45 MINUTES
English 74 74
Science 34 34
Latin 77 77
Mathematics 77 77
French 110 110
14 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
6. FIRST YEAR HIGH SCHOOL. CLASS PERIODS : 30 MINUTES
Latin . . 42 42
Algebra 78 78
an 10 10
History 88 88
7. SECOND YEAR HIGH SCHOOL.
English . ...
CLASS PERIODS : 30 MINUTES
Study period .
8. SECOND YEAR HIGH SCHOOL. CLASS PERIODS : 45 MINUTES
German 46 46
Latin 90 90
English 89 89
History 128 128
Mathematics 130 130
9. FIRST YEAR HIGH SCHOOL. CLASS PERIODS : 45 MINUTES
Declamation 102 102
English 55 55
Science (test) 15 15
Mathematics 84 84
German 114 114
10. EIGHTH GRADE. CLASS PERIODS: 40 MINUTES
English . 200 200
Mathematics . 56 56
Reading (declamations by class) 20 20
History (work done by teacher) 45 45
The Investigations 15
In this series of ten observations (Table II) the average num-
ber of questions for a day's activity is 395. I have no doubt
that if any one of these classes had been followed for a period
of one week or longer, the average would have remained prac-
tically the same, a little higher or a little lower. It would not
help us to know the absolute accuracy of the figure even if it
were possible to secure it. What we do need to know is the
direction in which our present practice is drifting, and the pace
it is assuming. Considering that children in our schools are regu-
larly held by our teachers, collectively, to a performance of some-
thing like four hundred questions and four hundred answers in
one day, and something like four hundred questions and four hun-
dred answers the next day, and so on, we have in this situation
alone a rather significant factor to reckon with in estimating
standards of class-room efficiency.
EFFICIENCY OF INSTRUCTION AS MEASURED BY
A LARGE NUMBER OF QUESTIONS
When I asked a school principal what he considered fair ques-
tioning activity for his teachers he replied, after reflection, that
he supposed some of his teachers might ask forty-five questions
in a forty-five minute period; that is, one question per minute.
When I showed him the figures of a series of observations made
in his school his reply was, " Why, when do they think?" a very
good question for principals and teachers to answer.
The fact that one teacher has the ability to quiz his pupils at
the rate of two or three questions in a minute, is a matter of
comparatively slight importance; the fact that one hundred dif-
ferent class-rooms reveal the same methods in vogue is quite
another matter. The fact that one history teacher attempts to
realize his educational aims through the process of " hearing " the
text-book, day after day, is unfortunate but pardonable; that
history, science, mathematics, foreign language and English
teachers, collectively, are following in the same groove, is a
matter for theorists and practitioners to reckon with.
The first impression borne in upon me while making the series
of one hundred observations was that of the large number of
questions. It was almost overwhelming, as I proceeded from
class to class, to find two, three, and four questions per minute
the speed of one teacher after another, in one subject after an-
other. It seemed so preposterous that I was not satisfied until
I had set the stop watch upon my own accomplishments in that
direction and found that I could match the speed with ease.
If these studies in observation and the material of the steno-
graphic reports are to be of service to the professional work of
supervisor and teacher, they must be interpreted in terms of
their significance in the process of instruction. Let us consider
first of all this fact of number. What suggestions do the figures
A Large Number of Questions 17
in Tables I and II alone offer in measuring school or class
FIRST: The large number of questions suggests the main-
tenance in the class room, for considerable portions of time, of
a highly strung nervous tension where there should be natural
and normal conditions. This high-pressure atmosphere is always
a creation or reflection of the manner of the teacher, with whom
it is sometimes wholly temperamental and sometimes only assumed
in the class room for the purpose of gripping the attention of
pupils. Attention once secured and the pace once established, it
seems to be characteristic of class-room procedure to accelerate
the tempo rather than to slow down to one that is more normal
and more consistent with nature's own processes of mental
The teacher who has acquired the habit of conducting recita-
tions at the rate of from one hundred to two hundred questions
and answers per class-room period of forty-five minutes, has truly
assumed the pace that kills. It is deadly to the nervous organism
that maintains it and, by reflection, injurious to the children who
live in that atmosphere.
SECOND: The large number of questions suggests that the
teacher is doing most of the work of the class hour instead of
directing the pupils in the doing. One reason why one hundred
and fifty questions can be asked in forty minutes is due to the
fact that the teacher can think more rapidly and talk more rapidly
than his pupils, and so, in order to cover a large amount of
subject matter, he carries the trend of the lesson through his ques-
tions, the pupils merely punctuating the series with short answers
from the text. This situation can best be realized by reading a
selection from a stenographic report in history. 1
TEACHER: A Congressional investigation cannot be justified unless the
charges are serious. Now the charges against Arnold in his Philadelphia
career were of a petty sort; he was charged with embezzling funds en-
trusted to him, and the charge that he had used an army wagon was not
enough to have disgraced him before the country.
On what occasion had Arnold failed to receive credit for what he hadl
PUPIL : At Saratoga.
1 The oral work of the teacher is printed in italic ; that of the pupil in
i8 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
TEACHER: Who received the credit of the Battle of Saratoga?
TEACHER: And Gates' participation in that battle had been very small.
If you consider Arnold's character, his career, and the sort of man he
w<u t you can appreciate the treatment Congress accorded to him; his
career was marked with brilliancy, he had been in command of one division
of the American troops, and the difficulties on that march had been par-
ticularly great. He had taken part in the charge at Quebec, and his
reputation had been greatly enhanced. The result of the Battle of Sara-
toga was due largely to Arnold's part in it, but Congress, in its usual
mismanagement of its forces which is characteristic throughout the revolu-
tion, failed to recognize his services. What does Washington's attitude\
toward Arnold seem to have been?
PUPIL: He esteemed him highly, and was very kind to him.
TEACHER: What was the character of the reprimand which Washington
gave to Arnold?
PUPIL: He said he would try to gain back his good name as well aa
TEACHER: The whole language of that reprimand was as gentle as he,
could make it. They were unable to remove him from the army altogether.
What feature of Arnold's treason do you think was most reprehensible*
most open to criticism?
PUPIL: It was through him that Andre came to his death, he let Andre
die really in his place.
TEACHER: That is the way it looks, that is one bad feature; although
perhaps Arnold is not open to as much criticism there as you may think.
He went to General Clinton and offered to surrender himself. When you
consider how he got the command at West Point, you will find there the*
worst point in his whole career. He got the command from his best
friend Washington; the betrayal was not only a betrayal of America,
but of his best friend Washington, and Washington felt the disgrace per-
haps even more than Arnold himself.
1 want to take up briefly the discussion of Andre's punishment. What
were the arguments brought forward before the committee of investi-
gation against the execution of Andre on the charge of being a spy?
PUPIL: He was the mere tool of Arnold; the information he carried
waa second-hand ; he was simply a messenger between Arnold and Clinton.
TEACHER: What question of military law came up there, do you know?
Whether a messenger traveling under a
PUPIL: Under a flag of truce; he wasn't, was hef
TEA il' hat might be interpreted as a flag of truce?
PUPIL : A passport from Arnold.
TEACHER: The British tried to make as much as they could out of
that; what was said to that argument?
I will quote also the last half of a chemistry recitation a small
portion of a lesson of more than usual interest. In this work there
A Large Number of Questions 19
was, however, active participation by every pupil during the
laboratory work just completed.
TEACHER: This salt you have made is as good as any salt you ever
ate, and I venture to say, a good deal better, and I am going to ask in
your home work that you -find out why. I want you, before you go, to
look at this disk of common salt; it is made by evaporating a salt solution
down very, very slowly, and you get a very pretty cubical-shaped crystal,
I want you to look at those. What is the formula for common salt, John?
JOHN : Na Cl.
TEACHER: Anyone decided it would be different? Of what acid is it a
IRMA : Hydro
TEACHER: You cannot pronounce it?
IRMA : Hydrochloric.
TEACHER: Can you name another salt of hydrochloric acid?
PUPIL: Chlorine no, sodium.
TEACHER: I want another, a salt of hydrochloric acid?
PUPIL: Potassium salt, calcium salt.
TEACHER: What would be a formula for the potassium salt?
PUPIL: K Cl.
TEACHER: What are you going to call all salts of " ic " acids?
PUPIL: " ates."
TEACHER: This is the sodium salt of hydrochloric acid, what would
you name it?
PUPIL: Sodium hydrochlorate.
TEACHER: What would the sodium salt of chlorous acid be, Edith?
PUPIL : Sodium chlorite.
TEACHER: What would be the sodium salt of hydrochloric acid?
PUPIL: Sodium hydrochlorate.
TEACHER: Is common salt usually called sodium hydrochlorate in the
PUPIL: Na Cl.
TEACHER: Suppose I want to name it? What is its formula?
PUPIL: Sodium hydrochlorate.
TEACHER: Is it called sodium hydrochlorate? I never speak of it as
PUPIL: Sodium chloride.
TEACHER: In this case, the reason why we call it sodium chloride
instead of sodium hydrochlorate is what? What name do we give to this
PUPIL: Copper oxide.
TEACHER: H S?
PUPIL: Hydrogen sulphide.
TEACHER: What name do I give to this? (Na Cl) ?
PUPIL: Sodium chloride.
2O The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
TEACHER: Why do I name it with a name that ends in " ide " instead
of calling it sodium hydrochlorate?
PUPIL : It only has two elements in it.
TEACHER: All right; and substances that have only two elements in
them are called what?
PUPIL: " ides."
TEACHER: The real name for this is sodium hydrochlorate, but we call
it sodium chloride, because it has only two elements in it; what are the
tiro elements in sodium chloride?
PUPIL: Sodium and chlorine.
TEACHER: What do you know about the physical properties of sodium?
PUPIL: Put sodium in water and hydrogen is obtained.
TEACHER: Physical or chemical property?
PUPIL : Chemical.
TEACHER : / asked for physical property.
PUPIL : It is a soft metal.
TEACHER: That is the peculiarity about it, a soft metal. Here is
chlorine, you have never seen it before. We are going to make some of
it from the salt you have made in the laboratory, but at present I made
some chlorine from other salt to show you how it looked. It is a decidedly
green gas. You have not made any gas before that had a color; all
the gases you have made have been colorless gases. Colored gas and
sodium go together to make this compound Na Cl. You cannot tell any-
thing at all about the properties of a compound by "knowing something
about the elements that go to make it up, can you? And you cannot
tell anything about an element from knowing about the compound it
comes from. Does sodium suggest to you common salt? This salt is a very
valuable compound in the household, we use it every day, and know how
important it is. I want you to notice that the physical properties of that
substance are not like these elements. Imagine anybody trying to season
his food with chlorine. And yet salt is a very valuable compound, and the
elements taken by themselves would be exceedingly injurious to life. Sup-
pose you were asked to find the molecular weight of this compound, Na Cl,
how would you find it? Don't know how to find the molecular weight?
v, do you? Do you, Frances? Have you ever found it?
TEACHER: Yes, once or twice. How do you find it in the case of
sodium chloride? What will I have to add together?
PUPIL: Weights of the elements that are in it.
TEACHER: Of course; what is the molecular weight of salt?
TEACHER : To find out the percentage of sodium in sodium chloride.
TEACHER: Can you tell me, roughly, what percentage that would be;
suppose I scratch off some of this.
PUPIL: About 30 or 40 per cent.
A Large Number of Questions 21
TEACHER: About two-fifths, isn't it? Somewhere around 40 per cent.
Put a question marie after it. Well, if the percentage of sodium is 40
per cent, what is the percentage of chloride, George?
PUPIL: 60 per cent.
TEACHER: 60 per cent of chloride in common salt; what percentage in
an ounce of common salt, Alice?
ALICE: The same proportion.
TEACHER: Of course, the same proportion; and if I should tell you
that an ounce of common salt is about 28 grams of common salt, could
you tell me how many grams of chlorine I could get out of common salt?
PUPIL: 60 per cent.
TEACHER: And that is about 17 grams out of an ounce of common
salt; how could I find out how many liters of chlorine, roughly speaking,
in an ounce of common salt; how could I find out?
PUPIL : You must know the weight of a liter.
TEACHER: If I told you that chlorine is 35.5 times as heavy as
hydrogen, could you tell me how to find the weight of chlorine, Margaret?
MARGARET: Multiply that by the weight of a liter of hydrogen.
TEACHER: What is the weight of a liter of hydrogen, Ruth?
PUPIL : 98/1000.
TEACHER: of a gram. If I multiply I get something like 3.15; how
can I find out how many liters there are in 17 grams of chlorine gas, Alice?
ALICE: I don't know.
TEACHER: Do you know the weight of one liter of chlorine gas? Which
figure on the board represents that?
PUPIL : 3.15.
TEACHER: If one liter weighs 3.15, how many liters in 17 grams?
PUPIL: You divide.
TEACHER: Tes, divide what?
PUPIL: 17 into
TEACHER: Into what?
PUPIL: By three and a half.
While the students in the Department of Secondary Education
of Teachers College were analyzing some stenographic reports,
they were asked to comment upon the relative amount of teacher
and pupil activity. They went about it in a most systematic
way, counting the lines or the words spoken by the teacher and
pupils. One may say with a degree of fairness that this is not a
gauge of activity because it takes no account of subjective activity ;
however, it does indicate with sufficient accuracy the amount of
time consumed by teacher and pupils in oral expression. I have
had the method followed with other stenographic reports, and I
present the totals, giving the percentage of teacher and pupil
activity in each case.
22 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
SHOWING PERCENTAGES OP TEACHER AND PUPIL ACTIVITY IN TWENTY
STENOGRAPHIC REPORTS, AS MEASURED BY SPOKEN WORDS
Teacher activity Pupil activity
1. History 80 20
L. " 57 42
3. " 59 41
4. " 75 25
5. " 62 38
6. " 58 42
7. English 29 71
8. " 60 40
9. " 43 57
10. " 71 29
11. " 64 36
" 46 54
13. Latin 60 40
14. Science 80 20
15. " 75 25
16. Mathematics 67 33
17. " 90 s 10
18. Modern Language . . . , 67 33
19. " 70 30
20. " 57 43
Average 64 * 36
After reading the Stenographic Lesson Reports published in the
TEACHERS COLLEGE RECORD, September, 1910, the principal of a
city school wrote me that he was prompted to a tour of inspec-
tion in his school to see if his teachers were doing the large amount
of work that seemed to characterize teacher activity in the Reports.
By a random estimate he placed the percentage of teacher activity
at 85 per cent, 95 per cent, and in a few instances TOO per cent
(where he found teachers lecturing). His investigation brought
him promptly to the conclusion that the reason why our pupils
gain so little in intellectual power is because our teachers do the
THIRD: The large number of questions suggests that whenever
teachers, either individually or collectively, preserve such a pace
for any length of time, the largest educational assets that can be
reckoned are verbal memory and superficial judgment. It is quite
1 The average for the series shows teacher activity 64 per cent and the
pupil activity 36 j. T i-mt. wH.-li means that in twenty class rooms selected
at random in cur best schools two-thirds of the oral expression was that
of the teacher, while the other third was divided amongst the 20 or 40 pupils
' Two lessons in mathematics and one in modern language are designedly
A Large Number of Questions 23
obvious that with the rapid fire method of questioning there is
no time allowed a pupil to go very far afield in his experience in
order to recall or to associate ideas in fruitful ways. He is called
upon merely to reflect somebody else the author of his text-
book generally in small and carefully dissected portions, or to
give forth snap judgments at the point of the bayonet. The
following short sequence of questions illustrates my meaning:
Do you think Julius Caesar or Augustus the first o-mperor? Why?
(Judgment given by text-book.)
Give me the succession of rulers after Augustus.
Do you know who succeeded Augustus? (Several questions finally
brought answer Tiberius.)
What relation was he to Augustus?
What is the present principle of succession in England, for instance?
(Answered in part and at random by two or three pupils, and the in-
What was Augustus technically?
What was he officially?
and so on through sixty questions and sixty answers in a thirty-
three minute period, an average of two questions and two answers
per minute. And this was by no means an extreme lesson ; in
fact, it was one of more than ordinary interest. On the whole
it was representative of the best type of question-and-answer reci-
tation in history ; but even with this relatively moderate pace in
questioning, what opportunity could possibly be given to pupils
to get beyond the realm of superficial memory of the text?
FOURTH : The large number of questions suggests that there
ds no time in the mechanics of the school room to cultivate the
gentle art of expression. The query goes up from educators and
thoughtful parents everywhere, " Why do our young people ex-
press themselves so badly ? " " What are our schools doing to
cultivate the powers of speech ? " The only way to develop
powers of speech is to give opportunity for their exercise under
skilled guidance. When the day's work yes, the week's work,
is so largely given over to rapid questioning, there is no time for
niceties of speech. When there are from two to five answers per
minute, each supposedly reflecting a mental process, there is little
time given to correction of crudities in utterance; furthermore,
it frequently seems that the teacher is so gratified to catch a glim-
mer of an idea from a pupil, that he will promptly seize it,
24 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
amplify it, clothe it fittingly, the pupil meanwhile thinking he has
said something creditable. Why does the teacher do this ? For
some reason that is real or imaginary he has set himself a pace
and he cannot allow the time necessary for a pupil to recall, asso-
ciate and express an idea. If this happened occasionally one
might consider it justified, but it is a very common situation with
high pressure questioners.
I quote from the introductory pages of an English lesson every
answer representing the oral expression of the pupils for the first
twenty minutes of the class period.
On the second syllable.
I don't know.
By flashes was the darkened wood lighted.
I think "The darkened wood by flashes was lit up."
No, too many syllables in the first part.
" Blinding to sight."
Can you have any rhyme in blank verse?
Too many syllables.
That is a rhyme.
No, I don't think so.
Three out of five.
Four out of five.
" Rain " and " twain " a rhyme.
When he started to draw the circle.
' ' Dark and awesome wood. ' '
" Runes and rhymes."
The ball of fire.
The wind snapping the trees.
A couple of places it wasn't correct.
The second line.
The cakes of ice an extra syllable.
' ' The sky is dyed with red and gold ' ' that was very good ; and where
the lights began to come out, you can fairly see them come out.
The " Hudson's highway."
The crash of the ice doesn't sound quite like the rest of it does.
I thought that was good.
According to the tide.
A Large Number of Questions 25
I think it makes you think a little of the description of the water snakes,
the first part.
I think ' ' When the ice went floating by, green as emerald. ; '
The way it went floating by.
" Cracked and groaned and roared and howled. "
An extra syllable in " and hid them in the seams of rock upon the
Isn't that too long, " and now the South wind drifted by?"
The last line is still too long.
I don't think "And thus the butterflies were made " is long enough.
There is a good choice of words in "And lifted up on many colored
wings. ' '
About the waves lapping on the shore.
I have set the answers alone in this way with intent to make
them stand for what they are in the way of oral expression. If
I had quoted the full text of the lesson, the reader would prob-
ably have been impressed, as the observer was, with certain con-
tent values, and might not have observed that the individual pupils
were given almost no opportunity for oral expression. Up to this
point the teacher was doing 85 per cent of the work ; the pupils,
collectively, 15 per cent.
FIFTH : The large number of questions suggests that there is
little thought given to the needs of individuals. The teacher sets
the pace in his questioning: the pupils follow as a body, or drop
by the wayside. When pupils become interested in their work
and begin to think for themselves, it is very natural for them to
ask questions, and they will do it invariably if allowed to do so.
In the elementary school, the children are encouraged to seek in-
formation, but in high school there is no time apparently for indi-
vidual initiative. Take what the text-book gives you and be
satisfied, seems to be the watchword of many class rooms. A
glance through the stenographic reports shows that few questions
are asked by the pupils, and when asked, they are passed over
apologetically or deferred to a more convenient season. The mo-
ment we admit that we ask from 75 to 175 questions in a class
period, we commit ourselves as " drivers " of youth instead of
" leaders " ; drill masters instead of educators.
SIXTH : The large number of questions suggests that we are
coming, more and more, to make the class room the place for
26 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
displaying knowledge instead of a laboratory for getting and
using it. At the close of a class hour, the teacher assigns a
lesson for the next day; the pupils take the books home for
the purpose of learning the lesson ; the following day the teacher
gives the pupils the opportunity to display how much or how
little they learned. In some cases this represents the process
of class activity from the beginning of the year to the end.
Hearing the lesson or, quite aptly, " backing the book " is the
function of education. There is little effort made to adjust
or use knowledge so acquired, or to work it over with knowledge
SEVENTH : The large number of questions suggests that in
actual practice there is very little effort put forth to teach our
boys and girls to be self-reliant, independent mental workers.
The discrepancy between our theory and practice is nowhere
more patent. With the tremendous pressure incident to the re-
hearsal of questions numbering from seventy to one hundred
and seventy, for the purpose of covering every conceivable issue
expressed in the pages of a text assignment, the teacher loses
sight of the fact that he has a youth to teach through the
medium of his subject. There is no time to teach him how to
study: how to organize subject matter, how to judge relative
worths of facts studied, what to memorize. Even if the teacher
himself possesses a plan of work that is in itself a model of
organization, its value is likely to be lost sight of in the rapidity
and intensity of questioning activity. If there is no time for the
teacher's own fine intellectual work to be made apparent it is
not to be expected that time will be found for the slower process
of forming and fixing habits of study with boys and girls.
There is no use in claiming to teach boys and girls how to
study, and how to command their own intellectual forces by the
current practice of keeping them at the point of the bayonet in
rehearsal of text-book facts at the rate of two or four per
IN CONCLUSION: The large number of questions suggests an
almost total absence, in the practice of our class rooms, of any
psychological principles underlying aims or methods. We be-
lieve that youth is the time in which to form habits of thought
and action. We believe that habits can be formed by " focaliza-
A Large Number of Questions 27
tion plus drill in attention." 1 We believe that we can fix habits
only by giving them exercise; that they will function as they
are taught to function, and for the purposes for which they
are taught to function. Our professional creed includes all
these tenets and more. Now we desire to train pupils to habits
of independent thinking. There is no honest teacher living who
would disclaim this aim for his school or his class room, and yet
with the customary practices set forth above, teachers furnish
little or no incentive to independent thinking. We all know that
boys and girls show evidences of good healthy intellectual initia-
tive in affairs outside the class room, but there is not much op-
portunity for it in class ; if they think at all they must think in
the groove with everybody else. What has become of our
We possess another educative aim in our desire to broaden
the intellectual horizon of our pupils. This may be accom-
plished by inviting or compelling students to make associations
of new with old experiences. The teacher's mission is to furnish
the incentive for the making of many associations, not the asso-
ciations themselves. This aim can never be realized by assum-
ing the speed of the Twentieth Century Limited through the
rehearsal of text-book lessons, day in, day out, following an
introduction such as this:
Where does to-day's lesson begin, Miss A?
Will you recite the first paragraph, Miss B?
Is that right, Miss C?
Will you go on from there, Miss D?
Where have you heard of the Ethiopians before, Miss E?
We recognize as another immediate aim of instruction that
our pupils should form the habit of standing in a dignified
manner before their fellows, and giving expression to a thought
in concise and correct form. This certainly seems to be a simple
requirement easily fulfilled ; yet in our practice we are in such a
hurry to snatch a bit of an answer here and a bit there that a boy
is allowed to shamble to his feet astride of his chair possibly
mumble the words " crossed the Hudson at West Point " and
slink back into his seat. It is not worth while there is too
1 Bagley, The Educative Process, p. 123.
28 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
much else to do to stop for crudities in manner and speech !
Thus the gap widens between our professional aims and our
A school principal recently sent the following notice to his
teachers: Please write out for me just what you have done
this week in habit- formation with your classes in English (his-
tory, science, modern language, etc.) He nearly caused a stam-
pede amongst his teachers. He was asking them to measure
their daily practices by the side of their professional aims, and
to reveal in detail their methods of applying their psychology
to actual teaching.
In the early days of my teaching I was called upon to plan
my course of study for the entire year in the first-year high
school English and to indicate for each lesson just what psycho-
logical aims I would strive to realize. The column reserved for
these statements read something like this :
Memory, emotions, will;
Emotions, will, memory;
Memory, judgment, will;
Will, judgment, memory.
The real difficulty lay in trying to avoid the appearance of
monotony in arranging the limited assortment of words one
hundred and seventy-five times. However, when the syllabus
was once completed, my difficulties were at an end, for I could
teach my lessons exactly as I pleased and was never again seri-
ously troubled by the relative order of will, judgment, and emo-
tions. It would have been a much more serious matter if I
had been called upon at the end of the sixth, or the twelfth,
or the twentieth week to tell what specific things I had done
that week in training judgments in English work through the
medium of Silas Marner. Such a request would have revealed
my line of questioning in order to be in any way specific. I
believe that supervision needs to force such issues as this if
psychology is ever to take its rightful place in instruction.
These pages offer a somewhat severe arraignment of class-
room practice, I confess, and yet I believe the situation to be
modestly stated and the conditions to be generally characteristic.
The teachers who were chosen for the official observations
quoted and reported were all men and women of unquestioned
A Large Number of Questions 29
attainments, many of them with qualifications for leadership
sufficient to carry their pupils to the highest goal set by modern
educational theory. I am convinced that the faults in practice,
since they are so general, must be attributed to the absence of
any stable educational goal, and to shifting purposes in teach-
ing, and not to inefficiency of individual teachers. When I find
a teacher of history wearing himself out in a nervous struggle
to quiz minutely upon five pages of text, never allowing thought
to wander from the confines of those pages, I am led to believe
that his educational goal is the storing of memory. It certainly
is his goal in practice, if not in theory, and it is practice that
counts. Such a good teacher should not be allowed to live up
to such a false goal. When I find a teacher of English
doing artistic work in " appreciation " and wholly neglecting
oral expression, my inference is that " appreciation of litera-
ture " is his only goal. When one teacher of modern language
confines his work to the translation of the foreign text into
English, it is quite evident that his goal is different from that
of the teacher who puts the foreign language into use as the
medium of conversation and study of literature. These are
some of the problems of supervision : To unify the purposes of
teaching, and then to see to it that teachers measure their prac-
tices by these unified purposes. Until there is some unity in
purpose we cannot censure teachers altogether for vacillating,
wasteful and negative methods.
Is THE NUMBER OF QUESTIONS A FULL MEASURE OF EFFICIENCY
The inference may perhaps be drawn from the foregoing
pages that efficiency may be tested wholly by the number of
questions; that the quality of the questions, hence the qual-
ity of instruction, bears a direct relation to the number
of questions. If this is true, then with increase in quan-
tity there must be decrease in quality and, conversely,
with decrease in quantity there must be relative increase
in quality. It would seem that we might formulate a rule that
would read thus : If a teacher asks something like two hundred
or more questions in a class period, the quality of those ques-
30 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
tions must be reckoned at a very low value, say 25 per cent;
if he questions at the rate of one hundred and fifty per class-
room period, then we admit a slightly higher valuation in qual-
ity, perhaps 50 per cent ; if he gets down to one hundred' ques-
tions, the efficiency mark would rise correspondingly to 75 per
cent; and with fifty questions in a recitation, the standard of
quality would approximate 100 per cent.
If we could find that there is a direct relation between quan-
tity and quality, it would be a relatively easy matter to increase
the efficiency of instruction at once in all schools by issuing an
ultimatum to the effect that no teacher should ever ask more
than eighty, or seventy, or sixty questions in a class period. I
am sufficiently awake to the evils of rapid questioning to believe
that such a mandate would bring certain relief to the situation
if it accomplished nothing more than to remove the nervous
tension. It might, however, be only a partial remedy.
Such a sweeping inference regarding the relation between the
quantity and the quality of questions may be unsafe. It is pos-
sible, however, to test the premise by making a comparison be-
tween the lessons containing the greatest number of questions
and those containing the smallest number. For this purpose I
have divided the twenty stenographic lessons into two groups :
Group I, including the lessons with fewer than ninety questions ;
Group II, including the lessons with ninety questions or more,
the number ninety being a somewhat arbitrary division line. By
this classification the lessons fall into the following groups :
SHOWING THE GROUPING OP THE TWENTY STENOGRAPHIC LESSONS
Group I Group II
History 41 History 90
66 " 94
English 69 English 94
70 " 129
Science 86 Science 122
Mathematics 70 Mathematics 165
Modern Language 123
A Large Number of Questions 31
The history lesson with forty-one questions and the modern
language lesson with one hundred and ninety-six represent the
extremes of questioning activity. It is obviously impossible to
make any close comparison between history questions and Ger-
man questions, and yet it is possible to draw from each lesson
the aims and purposes of the respective teachers in using their
subject as a medium of instruction, and to measure these results.
The history lesson is quoted in part on page 17. There is
sufficient of the content to show. that the purpose of the lesson
is to rehearse facts and to acquire more facts. It is a " pour-
ing in " process pouring into the note-books an assortment of
facts to be consumed in preparation for examination. But there
are only forty-one questions, hence we should like to rank the
quality of instruction very high indeed, but in justice it cannot
The German lesson, on the other hand, is one in which the
attention of a group of ten-year-old pupils is held at the point
of the bayonet for forty-five minutes to interpret one hundred
and ninety-six sentences in a foreign language, and to give back
one hundred and ninety-six replies, all in the strange tongue. I
quote a brief selection to show the type of questions. 1
Dr. W. : Was machen denn diese Kinder hier?
CLASS : Sie machen einen Schneemann.
Dr. W. : Nimm den Stock. Zeig mir den Schneemann.
GIRL: Ich zeige dir den Schneemann.
CLASS: Du zeigst den Schneemann.
Er zeigt den Schneemann.
Sie zeigt den Schneemann.
Dr. W. : Noch einmal! Ich zeige Ihnen.
CLASS: Ich zeige Ihnen den Schneemann.
Du zeigst Ihnen den Schneemann.
Er zeigt Ihnen den Schneemann.
Sie zeigt Ihnen den Schneemann.
Dr. W.: Hat der Schneemann einen Hut?
CLASS : Nein, er hat keinen Hut.
Dr. W. : Zeige mir die Augen des Schneemannes.
CLASS: Hier sind die Augen des Schneemannes.
Dr. W. : Zeige mir die Nase des Schneemannes.
CLASS : Hier ist die Nase des Schneemannes.
Dr. W. : Zeige mir den Mund des Schneemannes.
CLASS: Hier ist der Mund des Schneemannes.
*Max Walter's German Lessons, p. 105. (Scribner, 1911.)
32 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
Dr. W.: Hier 1st der Hals des Schneemannes. Noch einmal!
CLASS (repeating three times) : Hier 1st der Hals des Schneemannes.
Dr. W.: Zeige mir die Zilhne des Schneemannes. Siehst du die Zahnet
Er hat keine Zfthne; er 1st zu alt; sie sind ausgef alien, er muss zum
Zahnarzt. Was ist ihm ausgef alien fallen out?
CLASS: Die Zahne sind ihm ausgef alien.
Dr. W. : Gib deinem Freunde, deinem zweiten Freunde in der zweiten
Reihe den Stock.
L: Ich gebe dir den Stock.
CLASS: Du gibst ihm den Stock, sie gibt ihm den Stnck.
Dr. W.: Gib ihm den Stock.
GIRL: Ich gebe dir den Stock.
BOY: Du gibst mir den Stock.
CLASS: Sie gibt ihm den Stock.
Dr. W.: Noch einmal, lauter!
CLASS: Sie gibt ihm den Stock.
Dr. W. (to girl) : Was hat sie ihm gegeben? Meinen Hut?
CLASS: Nein, sie hat ihm den Stock gegeben.
Dr. W. : Hat sie ihm meinen Stock gegeben?
CLASS: Sie hat ihm deinen Stock gegeben.
Dr. W.: Zeige mir das Madchen, das ihm den Stock gibt.
BOY: Ich zeige den Madchen.
Dr. W.: Das Madchen.
CLASS : Ich zeige das Madchen das ihm den Stock gibt.
Dr. W.: Ich zeige das Madchen das dem Schneemann den Stock gibt.
CLASS: Ich zeige das Madchen das dem Schneemann den Stock gibt.
Dr. W.: Noch einmal, alle zusammen!
CLASS (shouting) : Er zeigt das Madchen das dem Schneemann den
Dr. W.: Lege den Stock auf den Tisch.
BOY: Ich lege den Stock auf den Tisch.
Dr. W.: Geh auf deinen Platz.
BOY: Ich gehe auf meinen Platz.
CLASS: Du gehst auf deinen Platz. Er geht auf seinen Platz.
Here the questions and answers are brief with only slight
variation in the construction. The purpose of the lesson is to
put the new words and the new forms of the foreign tongue
into immediate use. The recitation is a laboratory period for
getting and using knowledge, not for storing it away in a note-
book against the day of examination. Hence it seems evident
that the history lesson with its limited number of questions fails
in efficiency according to the ideals of history teaching; and
the German lesson, with its large number of questions, ranks
high as an illustration of foreign language instruction.
The modern language lesson reflecting one hundred and sixty-
A Large Number of Questions 33
one questions is similar in method to the one quoted, with the
difference that it is adapted to pupils of high school age. The
lesson of one hundred and twenty-three questions is a develop-
mental lesson in modern language. The mathematics lesson re-
flecting one hundred and sixty-five questions is a developmental
Assuming now that there is a specific purpose in short ques-
tions and short answers (hence more of them) for modern
language work by the reform method (Reform Metode) and
for developmental lessons where the successive steps in the de-
velopment are short, we may exclude these types from further
consideration and turn to the remaining lessons in Groups I and
II. All of the remaining are of the usual type of question-and-
answer lesson based upon text and home study the kind of
recitation we find in a large majority of our class rooms. It
may be more illuminating to compare two lessons in one sub-
ject. For this purpose the English group offers contrasts, the
smallest number recorded being sixty-nine, and the largest one
hundred and twenty-nine. Both lessons were given in the same
school and with class periods that were identical.
The first lesson (69 questions) is outlined by the teacher as
follows : " To-day we want to finish our work on Cooper, recall
some of the facts of his life, some of the things he did and
some of the impressions we gained from reading his books and
reading about him." The second lesson (129 questions) is based
upon the Fourth Canto of " The Lady of the Lake."
Both lessons begin with " the telling of the story " : Cooper's
life; the story in the Fourth Canto. Omitting these portions,
I will quote the more active part, a good half of each lesson.
SELECTION FROM THE LESSON ON THE LIFE AND THE WRITINGS
OF COOPER (69 QUESTIONS IN ALL)
After a reference to some of the Leather Stocking stories the
teacher asks : " What do you think of sequels as a rule, in the
writing of books? Are any of your favorite stories written
with sequels? Mary is bothered by the word sequel; who can
help her out ? What is a sequel ? "
PUPIL: A sequel is a book that has the same characters in, and comes
after the other one.
34 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
TEACHER: Did you get enough to understand it? George says a sequel
is a book that has the same characters in, and comes after the first story.
Now, do you know any sequel; have you read a book with a sequel?
PUPIL: Yes, the Iroquois.
PUPIL: Prisoners of Zenda.
PUPIL: Count of Monte Cristo.
PHILIP: Monastery and the Abbott.
TEACHER: I am thinking of some good old standard boy and girl
PUPIL: Pickwick Papers.
PUPIL: Little Women.
TEACHER: Yes; I was going back to Louisa Alcott, and the time she
had to satisfy all the boys and girls.
PUPIL: Eight Cousins.
TEACHER: Yes. Do you like sequels as a rule?
PUPIL: It depends on the book. If the first book is not interesting,
you don't care for a sequel, and if it is you want to go en.
TEACHER : Any other reasons why there might be some books that would
not demand itf
PUPIL: Cooper writes so you don't need a sequel, he writes them so
well, he ends his stories.
TEACHER: A book that needs a sequel is where he does not quite finish,
and Cooper seems to finish all his stories.
PUPIL: You cannot have a book end up tragically and then have a
sequel to it.
TEACHER: Yes, you cannot have a sequel when the hero dies.
TEACHER: Well, as a rule do you think a sequel is apt to be so suc-
cessful a book as the first?
PUPIL: No; for after the first you get kind of tired, when you are
reading of the same people.
TEACHER: How do you think the author feels?
PUPIL: I guess he is tired of writing on the same subject.
TEACHER: I think sometimes an author is, especially a sequel. That
is one thing about sequels, Cooper was wonderfully successful as far as
they were concerned.
PUPIL: I don't think Dickens got tired of writing sequels to Pick-
wick Papers, because I think the sequel was more interesting than the
first book. He wanted to show the common people how he felt about it,
and he thought he would write all the time for their benefit.
TEACHER: The characters in Pickwick Papers seem to be so real you
can go on inventing characters for them. It all depends on the book.
ALFRED: If you have a book, and at the end you have the story all
finished, and you have a sequel, it is like another story.
TEACHER: Yes, that is true; you get really another story, as we have
in Cooper. Cooper's life on the whole seems to be so serene and com-
fortable we are interested to know he did have a little trouble. We feel
that once in a while sorrow is an inspiration to a writer. The kind of
A Large Number of Questions 35
trouble that Cooper had was not the kind that might have inspired him
to write. What difficulties did he have?
PUPIL: He was fond of quarreling.
TEACHER: What about?
PUPIL: About politics and his writings; I think he thought people
treated him wrong.
TEACHER: Yes, indeed; what time did that trouble come in his life?
ELSWORTH: Towards the end of his life a banquet was given in his
honor, and he refused it, and brought a feeling against him, but before
he died his friends planned another banquet, but he died before it was
TEACHER: Do you agree with Juliette that he was very fond of
PUPIL: I think he was more or less a peaceful man.
PUPIL: He never tried to pick a quarrel, but never went out of his
way to stop one.
PUPIL: He was always convinced he was in the right when they argued
PUPIL: I think he was disagreeable as a young man.
TEACHER: What makes you think that?
PUPIL: It just said in a book I read that he was rather disagreeable,
and people did not care to argue with him.
TEACHER: He was unwilling to see the other 's point of view.
TEACHER: Let us see what these quarrels were about; what about his
home life, did he have a happy home?
PUPIL: I think he had a fairly happy home.
TEACHER: Where did he live?
PUPIL: He lived up in the woods.
TEACHER: When you say in that general way he lived up in the woods,
it doesn't sound as if he had a very comfortable home. The impression
that he had a happy home is right. What about all these quarrels? They
evidently had nothing to do with domestic affairs.
PUPIL: They were political affairs.
TEACHER: The politics of the times. Cooper, you remember, had spent
a little part of his life just previous to all these difficulties in Europe.
Did you get an impression about that right?
PUPIL: Yes, in France he had a chance to defend his country and that
was what the quarrels were about.
TEACHER: I do not think your account goes very much into detail
there. When he came back to this country, he found that he felt rather
critical toward his own country, just as perhaps the people in England
and in France had felt toward America, and when he criticized his
country you can imagine the attitude of America and Americans toward
Cooper. You may be perfectly willing to criticize your own country but
when somebody else criticizes it how quickly you resent it. Do you know
any other author who criticized America pretty sharply and aroused con-
siderable opposition by it?
PUPIL: Dickens was quite sarcastic about America. He came over to
36 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
America and went to the White House, and saw how the government went
along, and just at that time we were having a lot of trouble; it was just
at that time when just after the war, and things were not going nicely;
there were great debates; and when he went back to England he wrote
a lot of sarcastic things about American senators.
ALFRED: I think he wrote the bad side of America.
TEACHER: Did he criticize our morals or our manners?
PUPIL: Our manners.
TEACHER: Very largely our manners. And how did the people feel
about Dickens after he had gone home?
PUPIL: He was treated kindly and entertained very hospitably, and
they thought it was kind of mean of him to have gotten all that kindness
shown to him and then to go back and write something disagreeable.
TEACHER: It was not what guests usually do. There is a modern Eng-
lish writer who criticized us pretty sharply not so very long ago.
PUPIL: An English writer always thinks he knows a little more than
TEACHER: Don't you think that is rather the attitude that America
took towards the criticism of our manners?
PUPIL: You hear a lot about an Englishman; he comes over and doesn't
like the ways here, and he thinks he knows it all.
TEACHER: That is not exactly a fair attitude to take on our part. I
am thinking of a modern English writer who came over and visited us,
had a great deal of kindness shown him, and then went back and criticized
Americans. Have you ever heard of Kipling criticizing us? So we find
when Cooper came back and criticized his own people, told them what
they had left undone, they resented it, and the last years of his life were
rather stormy; he was in debates as to political questions and national
questions in general. With what grade of writers do you associate Cooper?
PUPIL: In the introduction of American literature in the class with
TEACHER: An English writer at the same time; by the way, did they
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Yes, they met, and it was very delightful that these two
romantic authors met as they happened to do.
TEACHER: I am thinking what American authors he was friendly with.
PUPIL: With a men's club, he was in that with Lowell, wasn't he?
TEACHER: I think his best friends were men that were very prominent
in New York at that time, Bryant and Irving, and it mentions quite a
few; Chancellor Kent.
TEACHER: Does that word " Chancellor " mean anything to you? To
whom does that word mean anything?
PUPIL: The man highest in a college.
TEACHER: You think it was chancellor of a college? I do not think
it was meant to be used that way about Kent.
PUPIL: I think it was some kind of a government official.
A Large Number of Questions 37
TEACHER: Who can get a little nearer? Does chancellor mean any-
thing to you (addressing pupil) ?
PUPIL: Chancellor of the Exchequer.
PUPIL: I think it is used more in England, it has something to do
TEACHER: You think it is an English term, do you? And was no one
at all curious about it when you read " Chancellor Kent"? You felt per-
fectly satisfied to say to yourself, That is an English term, or it means
Head of a University, or Chancellor of the Exchequer? Juliette, will you
remember to hold the class responsible for it next time; not to be re-
sponsible for it, but to hold the class responsible? We have had a number
of friends of Irving mentioned, and friends of his club. What was the
name of that club?
PUPIL: The Bread and Cheese Club.
TEACHER: Was Bryant there?
PUPIL: Yes; Oliver Wendell Holmes and Morse.
TEACHER: Was he a member of the original club?
PUPIL: Later on.
TEACHER: Morse made what discovery?
PUPIL : Telegraph.
TEACHER: It was a club composed of men of varying talents. Have
you ever heard of another club where the men got together and talked
of their professions, literary things, and perhaps introducing into their
number men of other professions, famous clubs?
PUPIL: Longfellow, Lowell and Hawthorne.
TEACHER: I do not believe Hawthorne was a member.
PUPIL: Benjamin Franklin.
TEACHER: You come by and by to two or three very famous clubs
where men gathered to talk about literature and their professions.
PHILIP: That one the Hartford Best?
TEACHER: Where do you hear of them, well, Everett, anything else
about these men?
PUPIL: They were mostly poets, I think, and they lived in and around
Hartford, and they formed a club; they were not afterwards known, they
never became very great writers.
TEACHER: There were some very well known writers; and that little
crowd of men did form a club.
PUPIL : We don 't read their poetry very much now,.
TEACHER: No, rather as a matter of curiosity; the crowd of men I
have in mind you will come across soonest is Oliver Goldsmith and Samuel
Johnson, in England.
I want to announce the work for next time, and I want to hand back
to you the themes I have corrected, and I shall ask you to bring them
next time so that we may enter our misspelled words in our books. The
work for next time is to take a portion of the chapter on Bryant, read as
far, please, in that chapter, as the discussion of American literature at
the time Bryant wrote, on page 176; that covers practically the whole
38 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
of Bryant's life, and leaves for another time only the discussion of Bryant
as a writer.
The first word misspelled is the word " really/' the next is the adverb
"too/* the third is a new word, the word " frivolous. " How do you
spell that wordf
PUPIL : F-r-i-v-i-1-o-u-s.
TEACHER: How will you put it down, Frederick!
FREDERICK : F-r-i-v-o-l-o-u-s.
TEACHER: Another word, " tantalize "; George Meyer, how are you
going to write that?
TEACHER: The class may pass back to your own room, and not back
to my room.
SELECTION FROM THE LESSON ON " THE LADY OF THE LAKE "
TEACHER: That is as far as you went; a good place to stop, in one
PUPIL: Most exciting.
TEACHER: An effective, dramatic moment. Anyone who has any further
light to give on the characters of these people we are speaking about f
do you know any more of them than you did last time?
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Of whom?
PUPIL: Koderick Dhu.
PUPIL: He can be very hospitable and courteous, when he likes.
TEACHER: Anything else?
PUPIL : When he gave the signal, and the men jumped from the bushes,
he had promised to take Fitz James to the lowlands, and he had him
right in his power, and he could have killed him if he had wanted to.
TEACHER: What did that show, the fact that he didn't?
PUPIL: That he was true to his word.
TEACHER: Truth and courtesy. What else?
PUPIL: Sense of fairness.
TEACHER: What else? Generosity?
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Anything else, Miss F.?
Miss F. : Fitz James shows 'his fearlessness when he says to Eoderick
he isn't afraid of him
PUPIL: I think also when he gave this ring to this girl.
TEACHER: That was fair and gracious, too. Anything more?
PUPIL : He was a warrior too, where he says he has always been used
to fighting, and will trust to his sword.
TEACHER: And there is something else, something so fine that other
characters talk about him; where were the women and children?
PUPIL: On the island. (Laugh.)
A Large Number of Questions 39
TEACHER: Yes, all measures taken for their protection. As a rule,
do the characters seem lifelike?
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Which is the most lifelike one to you, Mr. J.?
Mr. J. : I think Fitz James.
TEACHER: How many suitors has Elaine, by the way.
PUPIL : Three.
TEACHER: Who are they?
PUPIL: Graeme, Eoderick Dhu, and Fitz James.
TEACHER: Are those men distinct, three suitors or three distinct men?
PUPIL: Three distinct men.
TEACHER: I am going to ask you to write about this next time, so
think about it, please. From the beginning has the story flagged, or has
it gone on rapidly?
PUPIL: I think it has gone on rapidly.
TEACHER: No halt at any place, nothing to retard the story?
TEACHER: What are some of the scenes, that stand out in your mind
through the story?
PUPIL: You mean the one I remember best?
TEACHER: Yes, the one you remember best.
PUPIL: This last scene where Sir Eoderick
TEACHER: What happened?
PUPIL: Where the men sprang out of the bushes.
TEACHER: One of the most dramatic points in the story. Anything
PUPIL: The return of Eoderick in the First Canto.
TEACHER: The return of the war boats, the springing of the men from
the bushes at the whistle; Mr. V., give me another scene.
Mr. V.: The crazy woman.
TEACHER: All right, what about her?
Mr. V.: Where Murdock tries to kill Fitz James, where he is going
to kill the crazy woman
TEACHER: Call her Blanche, if you like. What else?
PUPIL: Her song.
TEACHER: Yes; what other scene, one of the best in it, no one has
spoken of it.
PUPIL: I think the quarrel between Malcolm and Eoderick.
TEACHER: Yes, it isn't very long, is it?
PUPIL: When Douglas refuses to allow Ellen to marry Eoderick.
TEACHER: That is a moment only; I want something a little more
lengthy, if possible.
PUPIL: Where Ellen first meets the stranger in the boat.
TEACHER: What else, how does the story open?
PUPIL: The hunt.
TEACHER: A good picture of the hunt, wasn't it well told? What
makes the hunt so interesting, Miss P.?
Miss P. : So real.
4O The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
TEACHER: Where does your interest focus itself!
PUPIL: On the deer.
TEACHER: After that!
PUPIL: On the hunt!
TEACHER : Yes.
PUPIL: On the horses and dogs.
TEACHER: The incident of the hunt, the return of the war boats, the
whistle of Roderick, the death of Blanche, and so on. Do the incidents
that happen seem probable, Miss H.f
PUPIL: I do, for that time.
TEACHER: Anything that seems at all forced?
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Did they happen in a natural almost necessary way? anyone
think anything was forced?
PUPIL: I don't think those Highland soldiers were apt to lie in the
bushes, that way.
TEACHER: What sort of warfare did they have; anyone else?
PUPIL: I think it was kind of foolish the way Fitz James said he
would fight the whole clan.
TEACHER: Does that bring out anything about Fitz James that might
have been put in purposely?
PUPIL: It was just said for effect; he didn't mean it.
TEACHER: Yes, possibly.
PUPIL: Where Blanche was running around all the time; I don't think
a crazy woman would be apt to be running around like that.
TEACHER: What had they done to the women and children?
PUPIL: Sent them to this island.
TEACHER : Yes.
PUPIL: I think it is improbable that she got back her reason.
TEACHER: Isn't it possible?
PUPIL: I think it is improbable that Fitz James swears to avenge her,
TEACHER: Wait a moment, can anyone defend that?
PUPIL: That was one of the principles of chivalry at that time.
PUPIL: Would he be apt to do it for a mad woman?
TEACHER: Would that be an especial charge to his chivalry?
PUPIL : Yes.
PUPIL: And because of the thing he knew had driven her mad.
PUPIL: Isn't it improbable that Fitz James should not recognize
Roderick if he was so against him?
TEACHER: Wait one moment
PUPIL: He had born driven from the court in the time of James' father.
TEACHER: Yes; what is the verdict, that the incidents are probable
TEACHER: Who thinks they are?
PUPIL: Some are and some are not.
A Large Number of Questions 41
TEACHER: We -will see; hold your judgment until the end, and see.
How much is description used in the story, Mr. T.? Is there very much!
Mr. T.: Quite a little.
TEACHER: For what did it seem to be put in?
PUPIL: I think one place the Canto starts very quietly, and then the
clan gathered in the fiercest preparation, terrible oaths, shows contrasts.
TEACHER: Is it put in then, just as a scene, or for some distinct
PUPIL: Distinct purpose.
TEACHER: And in this case it was?
PUPIL : Contrast.
TEACHER: What other descriptions?
PUPIL : Nature.
TEACHER : Very much space taken up with descriptions of nature ?
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Have you a pretty fair idea of the country?
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Better from the poem than from pictures, I think. Why,
Miss P., is as much space given to description and country?
Miss P.: I think it would be necessary, especially when warfare is
TEACHER: Kind of thing that happens depend on country?
PUPIL : Entirely.
PUPIL: Scott was a lover of nature.
TEACHER: For itself?
TEACHER: Do you think the descriptions show a familiarity with the
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: What makes you think so?
PUPIL: The names are correct.
TEACHER: That is true.
PUPIL: He has the location of very small matters that others who are
not familiar would not have.
TEACHER: Something more?
PUPIL: He seems to know how far it is from one place to another.
TEACHER: Geography. Something more? Superstition used much in
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Where and how, Miss W.?
Miss W.: A great deal of prophecy, whether they should go out to
battle was decided by superstitious means.
TEACHER: Yes, by superstitious means.
PUPIL: And what the result of the battle would be is decided before.
TEACHER: And what else? Some other little touches of superstition!
PUPIL: The cave.
TEACHER: Superstition comes in there; what else?
PUPIL: I think the cross.
42 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
TEACHER: What about the cross, particularly!
PUPIL: Bolt struck by lightning; sacrifices.
TEACHER: Sacrifices sound almost like ! Modern times!
PUPIL : Greek.
TEACHER: Greek and Roman, back a little farther.
PUPIL: Old Testament.
TEACHER: Yes; where else!
PUPIL: I think a lot of superstition where the sword fell.
TEACHER : Yes.
PUPIL: Allen's prophecy.
TEACHER: Something more! Do you remember Brian's curse! So far
in the story have we had any hints at all as to the kind of man who
wrote it, anything that gives you any idea of Scott himself, his likes and
PUPIL: He liked nature and animals.
TEACHER: What else!
PUPIL: Outdoor sports,
TEACHER: Outdoor sports; what else!
PUPIL: Clan life.
TEACHER: Clan loyalty, all right, what else! What kind of man was
he! What does he admire in men, in women!
PUPIL : Bravery.
TEACHER: What else!
PUPIL : Fairness.
PUPIL : Chivalry.
TEACHER: What else!
PUPIL : Generosity.
TEACHER: What else, Miss S.!
Miss S.: Hospitality.
PUPIL: Truth, constancy.
PUPIL: I was going to say beauty.
PUPIL: Physical strength; I think bravery in women too, Ellen sitting
alone in the cave.
TEACHER: Yes, practically alone, save for whom!
TEACHER: Who is Allen!
PUPIL: The aged minstrel.
TEACHER: If Scott loved that sort of thing, what sort of man is he!
PUPIL: Good sort of man.
TEACHER: As a whole, what sort of story, then, is it, is it interesting!
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: What is it filled with!
TEACHER: Does Scott love action!
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Do you know anything about his life!
PUPIL: He was lame.
A Large Number of Questions 43
TEACHER: Would he have an exaggerated appreciation, perhaps, for
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Who are his followers, what people have written stories
full of action after Scott can you think of any?
PUPIL : Cooper.
TEACHER: Yes, why is Cooper particularly like Scott?
PUPIL : Scenery.
TEACHER: Is scenery essential?
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: What else?
PUPIL : Characters.
TEACHER: Somewhat the same ideals and characters.
PUPIL: Civilization, the way they kept together.
TEACHER: Bather wild civilization; anyone else as a possible follower?
PUPIL : Stevenson.
PUPIL: Washington Irving.
TEACHER: Washington Irving?
PUPILS : No.
PUPIL : Henty.
TEACHER: Henty? Well, perhaps, yes, in some respects. Whom else?
A Frenchman maybe you might know.
TEACHER : Yes.
Next day's lesson Fifth Canto finished, and read the Sixth. I want to
see if next time you can tell me what particular task Scott set himself
when he wrote this story, etc.
Measure the questions and answers in these two lessons by
either of the accepted standards of English instruction appre-
,ciation and oral expression and it is apparent that the lesson
with the smaller number of questions has the advantage. In
the matter of oral expression alone, it seems that the children
in the first lesson were trying throughout to express themselves,
and sufficient time for that purpose was accorded them. In the
second lesson there was a steady running fire of questions which
the pupils merely punctuated with the briefest answers, such
as : the hunt ; so real ; on the deer ; on the hunt ; on the horses
and dogs; I do for that time; yes; yes, possibly; sent to the
island; yes; distinct purpose; contrast; nature; yes; yes; en-
In these two lessons, at least, I believe there is a rather close
relation between the number of questions and the quality. This
relation might not exist, however, in a comparison of other
44 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
The science lesson with eighty-six questions is quoted in
part on page 79; the science lesson with one hundred and
twenty-two questions on page 19; the history lesson with forty-
one, on page 17; that with sixty-six on page 52 and that with
one hundred and forty-two on page 60. Applying to these
groups the standards of science and history instruction in par-
ticular, or standards of class instruction in particular, or stan-
dards of class instruction generally, I believe we are forced to
the conclusion that there is considerable room for doubt re-
garding the relation of the number and the quality of questions ;
that the number of questions is not an absolute criterion of the
quality ; that the number is not a full measure of the efficiency
of instruction. Nevertheless, the fact remains that A LARGE
NUMBER OF QUESTIONS (barring modern language and develop-
mental lessons) is A VALUABLE INDICATOR, A PROMINENT SYMP-
TOM, OF BAD INSTRUCTION. While number is not the full meas-
ure, it is a very LARGE FACTION IN ESTIMATING EFFICIENCY,
LARGER PROBABLY THAN ANY OTHER SINGLE FACTOR.
EFFICIENCY OF INSTRUCTION AS MEASURED BY
A SMALLER NUMBER OF QUESTIONS
There are some indications in Chapter II that the lessons with
the smaller number of questions do not show the improvement
in efficiency that it would be fair to expect. I believe the study
of the subject cannot be complete until we have pushed the inves-
tigation a little further to determine if possible the reasons why
the smaller number of questions does not contribute to greater
efficiency in teaching.
In promoting this inquiry it seems expedient to consider only
the lessons in Group I (those containing fewer than ninety
questions) and to measure them first of all by the same standards
of instruction as were applied in Chapter II, beginning with page
17. In some instances the analysis of the stenographic reports
will be more minute in an effort to trace the reasons for lack of
I. Applying the measure of nervous tension.
Needless to say the lessons in Group I do not fall under the
censure applied to those in Group II. The degree of nervousness
manifest in the practice of asking from sixty to ninety questions
is not comparable with a speed of from ninety to one hundred
and ninety questions in a class period.
II. Applying the measure of pupil activity.
It is reasonable to expect that in lessons containing the smaller
number of questions there will be better reactions by the pupils :
that if the teacher asks sixty instead of one hundred and sixty
questions, the answers will be correspondingly more complete
and the pupils will be given time for thought and for dignified
expression. We have every reason to believe that pupil activity
will rank considerably higher for Group I than for Group II.
The conclusions are shown below :
46 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
SHOWING PUPIL ACTIVITY IN THE LESSONS OF GROUP I AND GROUP II
. . . . 70
Average 37$ Average 35|
Estimated in percentages we find the average amount of pupil
activity reflected by the lessons of Group I to be 37*4 per cent ;
the average of Group II, 35^3 per cent: the difference is scarcely
appreciable. From this it is evident that even with the smaller
number of questions, the teachers still manage somehow to do
a very large share of the talking during the hour. This fact
is a severe reflection upon the nature of the teacher's questions,
for if he cannot stimulate some degree of active participation
in the work of the hour by prodding his pupils seventy-five
times, he may well look to the content and the organization of
his lesson, and to the nature and form of his questions. There
is something wrong something that he alone can remedy. Fur-
thermore, it must be remembered that 37 per cent of pupil activity
means activity of the pupils collectively anywhere from twenty
to fifty pupils the relative amount per pupil being infinitesimal.
III. Applying the measure of over-emphasis upon memory
Selecting from preceding tables a new grouping to show the
estimated number of questions that draw for their answers
directly upon memory of a text-book lesson prepared at home,
we have a condition that is reflected in Table VI.
Table VI offers indication of several truths regarding class-
room practices. In the first place, in the history and English
lessons there are more memory questions indicated in Group I
than in Group II. There is, then, no indication that teachers,
A Smaller Number of Questions
who by chance or by custom ask fewer than the average number
of questions, are giving any serious consideration to processes
of intellectual development. Lesson number two in Group I
offers illustration in point. When from a total of sixty-six ques-
SHOWING THE NUMBER OF MEMORY QUESTIONS IN GROUP I
AND GROUP II
4. < '
8. Mathematics ..
8 Latin . . .
9. Mathematics .
Language . .
tions there are sixty based directly upon repetition of the text-
book, it is a matter of rather fine discrimination to determine
what may be the real values of such a piece of work. This
lesson passes the first test, of comparatively few questions (66) ;
although it does not rank especially high, it does measure above
the average in the matter of pupil activity (42 per cent) ; now
we discover that it falls irretrievably under the third test when
it confesses that the 42 per cent of pupil activity reflects activity
in repeating words of the text lesson.
Lesson number six in Group I measures well in the first test
(only 74 questions) and also in the second text with pupil activity
comparatively high (56 per cent). Then when we read in
Table VI that of the entire seventy-four questions, sixty-one are
" on the book," we readily see that such activity, while better
than no active participation by the pupils, is a long way removed
from the ideal in practice. The teacher's educational aims, his
own powers of organization, and his methods all stand revealed.
48 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
Lesson number three in Group I gives promise of better things :
Relatively small number of questions (69) ; pupil activity (40 per
cent); very few memory questions (39), the remaining thirty
questions belonging to the class of questions that stimulate indi-
vidual reflection. Lesson number five in Group I also stands
well, with pupil activity the highest in the whole series and
the memory work reduced to thirty-three questions. In these
two lessons we may look for something in the way of really
good questions. They will be referred to somewhat later.
It is also apparent from Table VI that the figures have a
certain pertinent relation to subject matter. There seems to be
higher speed in' 'questioning in the history lessons than in the
English, and there is more memory work done in history than
in English. In Group I, the percentage of memory questions in
history is 83 per cent, English 55 per cent; Group II, history
75 per cent, English 40 per cent. These deductions have been
substantiated in the larger number of observations made but not
stenographically reported. No other subject in the curriculum
seems to adhere to the text-book so persistently for content, or-
ganization, and method, as history: no other subject confines
itself so steadfastly to a struggle with facts. Since history
instruction seems to embody most of the evils of extreme text-
book work I will make use of the history reports for quotations
and for further application of the test of over-emphasis upon
memory work. Portions of three history lessons are quoted
below. The first is a seventh grade lesson, which began with
a review of some facts regarding the origin of the Constitutional
Government of the United States. The advance lesson the
portion quoted concerned the acts of the President and Congress
in sending supplies to the earthquake survivors in Sicily.
TEACHER: Just how did Congress go to worlc to approve what the Presi-
PUPIL: They wrote a document
TEACHER: What do they call that document?
PUPIL: A bill.
IRVING: They wrote down that a certain amount of money was to be
sent to the sufferers in Sicily, and then the President
TEACHER: Now wait a moment; let us suppose how many parts are
there in Congress?
A Smaller Number of Questions 49
TEACHER: What are they?
PUPIL: House of Eepresentatives and the Senate.
TEACHER: Now, you say that they had a bill, we will say in the House.
Do you know how much they asked for?
PUPIL : Two-thirds.
TEACHER: How much money?
PUPIL : $500,000.
TEACHER: Well, it was $800,000 to ~be correct; in the House they wrote
that in the Mil, to give it to the Italian sufferers. What was done after
they had read that?
PUPIL: There was a vote in the House, and there it came out that
two-thirds were for it; everyone signed his name, and it went to the
Senate, and if there were two-thirds in the Senate it became a law.
TEACHER : Yes.
PUPIL: Miss A. what would happen if the House of Representatives
got two-thirds for it, and the Senate two-thirds against it, and the
TEACHER: It has to go before both houses; when the House wants to
get something done in the Senate, and the Senate is against it, they
have to talk to them and try to persuade them. Where did you find two-
PUPIL: I didn't find that at all, Arthur said it.
TEACHER: Where did you find that, Arthur?
ARTHUR: It said in the Constitution two-thirds had to vote.
TEACHER: Look that up again.
PUPIL: Two-thirds of all persons present.
TEACHER: That was the way it should have been. The fact was tliat
the President sent his message to Congress Monday morning. Why did he
wait until Monday?
PUPIL: Congress was not back yet, just got back Monday.
TEACHER: He asked Congress to pass this law, and they were undecided
how much they wanted to give, so it was felt they ought to wait, and the
next day Congress signed the bill sent to them. We have been talking
about Congress, what is Congress made up of?
PUPIL: The House of Eepresentatives and the Senate.
TEACHER: Yes; and the name of the men who are in the Senate?
PUPIL : Senators.
TEACHER: What are the men in the House called?
PUPIL : Eepresentatives.
TEACHER: What is another word you hear them called?
PUPIL: Eepresentatives to Congress.
TEACHER: They w^rfl called Congressmen; how many have heard that
TEACHER: Arthur, did you find that clause in the book?
ARTHUR (reading): " Every bill which shall have passed the House
of Eepresentatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a law, be
50 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall
sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections, to the House in
which it shall have originated. "
TEACHER: Does it say that it has to pass two-thirds?
ARTHUR : I was just coming to it, if it goes back it has to be two-thirds.
TEACHER: The first time it has to be a majority vote. How many
found out how many men there are from New York State in this Congress?
PUPIL: In the House of Eepresentatives, New York can send six.
TEACHER: There seems to be a disagreement. John?
PUPIL: New York can send two to the Senate and two to the House
TEACHER: Still seems to be a disagreement.
PUPIL: In the House of Representatives New York six, and Rhode
TEACHER: Where do you find that?
PUPIL: That was in 1789.
TEACHER: It isn't the same now?
PUPIL : No.
TEACHER : Irving ?
IRVING: New York thirty-seven to the House of Representatives and
two to the Senate.
TEACHER: You said in 1789 they sent to the Senate?
PUPIL: Six from New York and one from Rhode Island.
TEACHER: Listen. To the Senate in 1789 New York sent how many?
PUPIL : Two.
TEACHER: And Ehode Island?
PUPIL : One.
TEACHER: To the Senate?
PUPIL: Two from New York.
TEACHER: In 1909 how many does New York send to the Senate f
PUPIL : Thirty-seven.
TEACHER: To the Senate, where did you find your facts?
PUPIL: Irving said it.
TEACHER: Irving, what did you say?
IRVING: I said New York two to the Senate.
TEACHER: And Rhode Island how many to the Senate?
TEACHER: That was away back in 1789; in 1901 how many has New
York in the Senate?
TEACHER: And Rhode Island?
PUPIL : Two.
TEACHER: Then that hasn't changed?
PUPIL: In the Constitution it said only two.
A Smaller Number of Questions 51
TEACHER: "Look that up in the Constitution after class.
PUPIL: To the House of Kepresentatives they sent as many as counted
on the population, I think one man to every 30,000.
TEACHER: Now we will talk about the Souse. What did you -find,
CLAUDE: Any city can send
TEACHER: Answer my question. How many in New York?
CLAUDE : Six thirty-seven.
TEACHER: Thirty-seven in the House. How many in Rhode Island?
PUPIL: Three, I think.
TEACHER: What is this about six, Margaret?
MARGARET: When it was many years ago
TEACHER: 1 don't hear.
MARGARET: A great many years ago they used to only send six.
TEACHER: A great many years ago they sent six; where did you get
MARGARET: Here in the Constitution.
TEACHER: And what does tliat mean?
MARGARET: Whenever they grew bigger
TEACHER: Answer this question.
TEACHER: In 1789 they could send six. My question yesterday was,
" In 1909 how many can you have in New York? "
PUPIL: I looked and I couldn't find it.
TEACHER: You found it where, Irving?
PUPIL: I found it in the almanac.
TEACHER: I said that you could find this question in two places.
PUPIL: I found it in an almanac which said for the House of Repre-
sentatives it had six men down it said 1907
TEACHER: Bring that to me, I want to see it. Carlton, you said some-
thing about 195,000 men, what was it?
CARLTON: Every state sent one man to every 30,000.
TEACHER: Where did you -find that?
CARLTON: In the Constitution.
TEACHER: That is, they were going to divide the United States into
districts with 30,000 in each one.
PUPIL: No, 30,000 of the population in each state, they could send
PUPIL: In 1789.
PUPIL: I thought it was 300,000.
TEACHER: You look that up.
PUPIL: Why did they change and send 37 to the House?
52 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
TEACHER: I was wondering why someone didn't ask that. They started
with six and ended with thirty-seven.
PUPIL: The population has increased and the number of men would
increase, it would get up to thirty-seven.
TEACHER: Let me see, in New York State there are about 7,000,000
people; according to the Constitution at first we were going to have one
man for every 30,000; how many in New York?
TEACHER: And other states 1,000. Why wouldn't that be a good thing,
to have 200 from this state and 100 from another
PUPIL: They would get
TEACHER: How often do they take a new census?
PUPIL: Every ten years.
TEACHER: What year do you happen to know?
PUPIL : 1900, and the next year 1910, and 1920, every ten years.
TEACHER: And then they keep enlarging it, until for every 195,000
they have a representative. Can you say about how many representatives
we have in New York state? How great a population have we?
PUPIL : 4,000,000.
TEACHER: Take these down and tell me to-morrow how many we have
for New York State alone.
PUPIL: Why could Rhode Island only send two representatives!
TEACHER: Answer that, Herbert.
HERBERT: Because the population has not increased enough.
TEACHER: So they can have only about two representatives. I am
going to ask this question for you to think over and tell me to-morrow:
You said that no matter how large a state was, whether large or small,
whether it had one thousand or millions in it, each state could have two
men in the Senate, but it is according to the population in the House.
Which do you think is the fairest, the fairer way, if you could have just
one? To-morrow we have no lesson to prepare for history, I will ask you
just to think over this question.
The next quotation is from the lesson of a second-year high
school class in first-year history. In the preceding two-thirds of
the lesson there had been questions upon Themistocles, Aristides,
the formation of the Delian League, and some comparison of
Delian and Peloponnesian Leagues. Here they begin considera-
tion of Cimon's place in history.
TEACHER: Who brought about the changes?
PUPIL : Cimon.
TEACHER: What did he do?
PUPIL: After awhile he thought they had too much freedom because
some of those islands, like Naxos, wanted to be free; they didn't want
to be under this League and he thought the best thing to do was to
make them pay a tribute, and not have so much to say in the government,
A Smaller Number of Questions 53
and he reduced them too, just as if Athens were the king and they were
all the subjects.
TEACHER : Exactly.
PUPIL: Cimon was more of an aristocrat; when he went to walk in
the streets he always had two servants with him, and they always had a
lot of money to give to the poor people
TEACHER: That looked as if he were fond of the people, didn't it?
What were Cimon' s chief characteristics? I thiiik if you will look it over
you will find that he was?
PUPIL: He was very patriotic.
TEACHER: Not only patriotic, but Cimon was a perfectly splendid
soldier; who was his father?
PUPIL : Miltiades.
TEACHER: And he had inherited his father's interests, he had the ideas
of discipline which a splendid general will have, that all must obey. His
ideas were liberal and generous enough, but when he considered Naxos*
disobedience, " If you do not obey, you must be punished." He thor-
oughly sympathised with Sparta in some of her training. The Spartans
had a great partiality for Cimon. After Aristides' death and we do not
"know just how he died Cimon had command of this League, and whaft
did you -find to be the characteristics of this party, your League is going
to be what?
PUPIL : General.
TEACHER: And come out like?
PUPIL: An empire.
TEACHER: In fact, we have been seeing how it was that Themistocles
gave the basis for Athens' power, how Athens developed it gradually, then
Cimon comes and changes the organisation. Let us go back to Cimon.
What was Cimon 's real aim when he first started it?
EAYMOND: Cimon, when he started out, was first of all
TEACHER: What work is he going to complete?
PUPIL : The work of
TEACHER: Let us look at our map
PUPIL: the work of reorganizing the Aegean cities.
TEACHER: How far does he accomplish it?
PUPIL: He does it, then went down to the southern part of the Medi-
terranean. (Goes to map.)
TEACHER: He goes up here (indicating), starts out and makes up his
mind he is going to complete Aristides' work, goes up toward Thrace, and
gets those cities under control; he has made up his mind that everybody
must join the League, and that he would go in search of the Persian fleet,
and see what was left, and what happened, Edward?
EDWARD: He defeated them in a battle near the River Eurymedon.
TEACHER: Can you point that out?
PUPIL: (Goes to map.)
TEACHER: What are you going to call that river?
PUPIL : Euri
54 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
TEACHER: Can you write it?
PUPIL: (writes, E-r
TEACHER: Anyone spell it all?
TEACHER: What sort of a battle was that?
PUPIL: Entirely naval, it didn't tell us in the book
TEACHER: Would you like to hear more about it?
PUPIL: I read all about it.
TEACHER: // you have, suppose you tell us; that will save a great deal
PUPIL: In thia battle Cimon and his people had a much smaller naval
power than the Persians, and didn't think they could win, but came upon
the Persians unexpectedly and trampled over them, and lots of Persians
were killed, and hardly any of the lonians, and they conquered them,
and right after this battle Persian troops were on shore, and some of
them would have liked very much to go fight them, but his soldiers were
all tired, and it was a very hard fight with Persia because Persia was a
large force, but the soldiers were so anxious to kill as many of the Per-
sians as they could, he let them go, and they went on and Persia fought
well, and the lonians won, but lots of the great soldiers of Athens were
killed in this war, and there were more Athenians killed in that war than
in any other, and also a great number of Persians killed. Cimon, after
having that victory, had freed cities around there, and the Persians thought
it was such a great loss he made the Persians promise not to come within
a certain point of the coast of Greece,
TEACHER: You wouldn't know that island mentioned there, you haven't
had it, they would stay out of the Aegean sea.
PUPIL: They said the Persians didn't even come near that island.
TEACHER: That was a complete victory?
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Do you Tcnow how the Athenians commemorated that victory?
The way they commemorated their victories?
PUPIL: Didn't they put up statues on the tops of buildings?
PUPIL: By the Olympian games.
TEACHER: What they did was to build a very beautiful temple which
you will Tcnow more about next week, and they put the Temple of the
Winged Victory right on that corner. You know a good many of the
statues do you? the one with the wings? Victory, when she received the
word, would fly home to tell the good news. Now it wouldn't be necessary
for Victory to have wings any longer, they had completed their conquests,
and they considered that it was to be no longer necessary for Victory to
have wings, and that little temple of the was the one of
the Wingless Victory.
Cimon did a great many other things after that. We shall not have
time now to talk of that. I want you in your advance work to try and
keep this in mind What it was that Themistocles did toward the building
vp of the Athenian greatness, what it was that Aristidcs did. And I have
A Smaller Number of Questions 55
a question for next time: Do you think Themistocles could have formed
the Delian League; what Cimon did, and how he obtained a strong hold
and strong command, and then give your reasons for the downfall of
Cimon, What was it, by the way?
PUPIL: Help to Sparta.
TEACHER: And then who was it came into command?
PUPIL : Pericles.
TEACHER: There was one man in between
PUPIL : Por
TEACHER : Ephialtes.
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: And Ephialtes was assassinated, and then Pericles came into
power. Now, in your advance lesson, I want you to review what each man
did toward the rebuilding of Athens' power, and work in your text-book
pages 217-223. I want you to do some careful map-work, and be able to
tell me about the different districts that belong to Athens, how great her
This third selection is from a second-year high school lesson
in second-year history. The lesson had followed closely the
struggles of the Carolingians for supremacy in Western Europe.
I quote the portion treating of the coming of the Mohammedans.
TEACHER: Who were they (the Mohammedans); what do you know
PUPIL: They were a band founded by Mohammed, who was the man
from Mecca farther in the East; and he founded a new religion called
the Mohammedan religion; and he said it was glory to die in battle and
thought that anyone who died by the sword would be greater than any-
one else and would probably go to the heaven that they imagined. The
Mohammedans were very zealous and they conquered a great deal of the
land around the Mediterranean Sea and on the Eastern border of the
Mediterranean; and they tried to conquer the Roman Empire in the west.
TEACHER: Would you say " Roman "?
PUPIL: It was more a German Empire.
TEACHER: Did they really try to conquer Rome; did they approach
PUPIL: No. When they invaded the Western World, the western part
of the Eoman Empire, it was thought at the time that they would prob-
ably conquer it, but Charles Martel with his soldiers, the German soldiers,
came and defeated them.
TEACHER: Defeated whom?
PUPIL: The Mohammedans.
TEACHER: Did they defeat Mohammed?
PUPIL: No, because he was not in the battle.
TEACHER: Where was he?
PUPIL: He was dead.
56 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instmction
TEACHER: Mohammed has passed away but his followers are still con-
quering in his name.
PUPIL: After that the Mohammedans did not have as much power as
before. They tried to invade other countries.
TEACHER: Does any girl know anything about this man Mohammed?
PUPIL: He was an Arabian; he was born at Mecca.
TEACHER: Come and find Mecca on the map. (Pupil indicated.) Yes;
down there on the west coast of Arabia a little lower down than you
pointed. An Arabian who became possessed with the idea of founding a
new religion t a merchant himself, the husband of a woman who was inter-
ested in merchandise and in caravans; and he traveled far and near as
a merchant would, up and down the coast of the Mediterranean perliaps
and the Bed Sea. And there he became very much impressed with the
idea of one God. Perhaps he learned it from the Jews, because the Arabians
did not really believe in one God. Their religion was a polytheistic system,
attempting to explain some of the mysteries of Nature. But in some way
he became impressed with the idea of one God, the same as the Jews under-
stood when they said Jehovah. And he became so impressed with that,
that he began, to teach that idea to his family. Perhaps his wife was his
first convert. We are not quite sure. But anyway in the course of time
he had a few followers; and after his death many people -flocked to this,
belief and became convinced that there was some truth in it at least. Then
they soon came to conquer in the name of what?
PUPIL: In the name of Mohammed.
TEACHER: In the name of his teachings: in the name of their religion.
Probably love of plunder had something to do with it and the love of
gain; but that was at the base of it all the time conquering in the name
of this new religion called Mohammedanism, they soon entered most of the
cities along the northern coast of Africa, and made their way into the
Strait of Gibraltar. This takes me five minutes to tell. How long do you
think it took them to do this?
PUPIL: A century or two.
TEACHER: We pass quickly over these periods. You girls might get
confused and think this happened in a few years. Mohammed was dead
a long time before they attempted to cross into Europe. Now where did
they attempt to cross into Europe?
PUPIL: The Strait of Gibraltar.
TEACHER: What people would they have to conquer in Southern Spain
before they could go very far?
PUPIL: The Visigoths.
TEACHER : You remember some days ago we talked about the Visigothio
State, the first German state to be carved out of these chaotic states.
Later this German state was attacked on the South by whom?
PUPIL: By the Saracens.
TEACHER: We have come to them at last; these followers of Mohammed.
They had already been attacked on the North by whom?
PUPIL: The Franks.
A Smaller Number of Questions 57
TEACHER: The Visigothic State going to pieces, as it were, under the
attacks of the Franks from the North and the Saracens from the South.
They slowly pushed their way, these Saracens, up through Spain into
France, threatening Christendom. If they could spread their religion over
Europe what other religion must give place to it?
PUPIL : Christianity.
TEACHER: There must have been great concern among the Christians
when they realised what was coming, what the dangers were. Who was
strong enough to turn them off.
PUPIL: Charles Martel.
TEACHER : The Frankish soldiers you might say. Where was that great
and decisive battle fought when he succeeded in turning back the Moham-
medans and probably saving Europe?
PUPIL : Poitiers.
TEACHER: Sometimes called the Battle of Tours. Where is it? (Pupil
indicates on map.) You might say Southern France near the center. Can
you tell me why we look upon the battle of Poitiers as one of the great
decisive battles of the world, why we should remember it?
PUPIL: At the battle of Poitiers Charles Martel defeated the Sara-
cens, the Mohammedans; and only for his defeat of them the religion
of the Germans would have been changed from Christian to Mohammedan
because they were very strong, and they would have forced their religion
upon the Eomans and the Christians, but since Charles Martel defeated
them Christianity was spared and the people remained just the way they
had been before.
TEACHER: That is pretty strong. People never remain just as they had
been before. Christianity was saved and probably we may say Europe
was saved from Mohammedanism. Now, was that something to be desired,
that Europe should be saved from Mohammedanism?
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Why do you say that? Mohammed taught the belief in one
God; he taught many good things. By the way, what was the Bible called
by the Mohammedans?
PUPIL: The Koran.
TEACHER: It is full of fine teachings, many of them as fine as you
can find in the Bible. Why do we say it was a good thing for the world?
PUPIL: The greater part of them were plunderers and ravaged.
TEACHER: So did the Germans. Go on with your answer, Miss A.
PUPIL: They thought it was a glory to be killed, it was considered
good to be killed in battle and this was carried to such an extent that it
TEACHER: Do you think the Germans were very mild or gentle? Why
do we think this battle of Poitiers was such a great benefit; why was the
saving of Christianity to the world better than if it had been converted to
PUPIL: Christianity teaches that no blood should be shed; but Mo-
hammed taught that it is well that you should die by the sword in battle.
58 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
TIACHER: One of the ideals of Christianity was finer than the ideals
of the Mohammedans. In this respect that might be. We are getting at
it, I think. Miss F., another reason.
Miss F. : The Mohammedans were not as civilized as the Christians
TEACHER: 7 do not know about that. If you look into them, they had
better schools than the Christians had at that time. It is said there
were better schools among the Mohammedans, science was more advanced
among the Mohammedans. What do you say?
PUPIL: We can take those countries to-day, and we can see they are not
nearly as civilized as we are; and if they had substituted their religion,
likely Europe would be just the same.
TEACHER: Where do we find those people to-day?
PUPIL : Arabia.
TEACHER: Their civilization to-day we think is far inferior to ours.
Now when you compare the civilization that has developed under the teach-
ings of Mohammed with the civilization that has developed under the teach-
ings of Christianity, which do we think is very much better?
CLASS : Christianity.
TEACHER: When the two are measured side by side we feel that the
ideals of the Christians were finer than the ideals taught by the Mohamme-
dans; and the two civilizations of to-day are the very best proof that we
have. I think that is the way to get at that. Who was the greatest of
all the Carolingians?
PUPIL: Charles the Great.
TEACHER: Describe him.
In these selections there is representative work in history
instruction. That the lessons differ materially as we apply to
them different standards is apparent in a casual reading, but they
are typical of the kind of history recitation that may be observed
in thousands of class rooms. Such text-book work is paralleled
in other subjects in which the book is rigidly followed, but in
most other subjects there are some extenuating circumstances,
such as an occasional laboratory period or some incidental black-
board work. In history the evils of book work, hence verbal
memory work, seem most pronounced. There is very little
reflection called for in the questions quoted in the three lessons,
and whether the lesson reflects many questions or few, their
nature is invariable a memory question of a previously pre-
pared lesson. In connection with the study of history it is
interesting to read the aim for the teaching of history as found
in the Report of the Committee of Seven. This report sets the
following standards for history instruction : it trains for citizen-
ship ; it cultivates judgment; " it is a great instrument for devel-
A Smaller Number of Questions 59
oping in the pupil capacity for seeing underlying reasons and
for comprehending motives " ; it " develops capacity for effective
work, not capacity for absorption alone " ; it helps to develop " the
scientific habit of mind " ; it helps to inspire a pupil " with a
love of reading which will prove a priceless treasure to him." 1
How are some, or any, of these aims for the study of history,
or similar ideals for the study of any subject whatever, to be
realized by the current practices of spending all the time avail-
able on hearing the text?
If you ask teachers of history why they are teaching it, the
most customary answer is that " history develops judgment." In
the hundreds of class rooms where I have made observations
of the questioning, I have found very few questions so framed
by teachers of history that they called for any individual judg-
ments. Psychology teaches us that the only way to train the
ability to form historical judgments is through exercise. I have
found such questions as this : " Was the king right in imposing
the stamp tax upon the colonists ? " This sounds like the appeal
for a possible judgment by the pupils, but it cannot be a real
judgment when the pages of all the texts distinctly reveal marked
censure of the king. " In what respect would you call the War
of 1812 a second War of Independence? " appears to be a ques-
tion involving the pupil's judgment; but when the text-book
lesson prepared at home contained the sentence; " The War of
1812 has been often and truly called the Second War of Inde-
pendence, which should be understood to mean not merely inde-
pendence of other nations, but of the conditions of colonial life,"
the answer was obviously colored by the author's statement, and
hence it could not be a judgment of the pupil.
It seems a paradox to say that there are times when a judg-
ment question is not a judgment question, but if we attempt to
analyze so-called judgment questions in history we can find many
illustrations to corroborate the statement.
Analysis of the six stenographic lesson reports on history
reveals the fact that, by classifying as a judgment question every
one that could possibly involve the element of judgment, the
highest attainment is twenty-eight in a total of one hundred and
twenty-five, and twenty-nine in a total of one hundred and five,
1 The Study of History in Schools. Report of the Committee of Seven,
60 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
while the lowest record was three in sixty. The following ques-
tions from the first mentioned lesson show something of the type
of judgment questions used :
TEACHER: The end of to-day's lesson says that certain of the achieve-
ments of the Greeks during the period that is treated in the chapter show
the sterling qualities of the Greek mind. What does sterling meant
PUPIL: The very finest.
TEACHER: Any other answer?
PUPIL: Good qualities.
TEACHER: That is rather general.
PUPIL : Best qualities.
PUPIL: Next to the best.
TEACHER: Next to the best? When you think of " sterling " silver
as the best?
PUPIL: Gold is better than silver.
TEACHER: Sterling silver is the best of its kind, isn't it? Any other
explanation of sterling?
PUPIL : Thorough.
Then follow twenty-four memory questions based upon the
text, after which there is a return to the judgment questions in
line with the above.
TEACHER: Now, what do you think sterling qualities of mind means
PUPIL: That they had high ideals; they were true to them and were
TEACHER: A better answer still. What do we mean by " sterling
qualities of mind "?
PUPIL: The very highest. They could not be influenced by any other
TEACHER: They were, I think.
PUPIL: I think the people cared to love the best of everything. I
think these qualities were at the highest point; they never reached such
a refined state before, and everything was the best of its kind.
TEACHER: Any other answer?
PUPIL: The strongest qualities.
PUPIL: They looked for beauty in everything.
Later in the lesson we find :
TEACHER: Do you suppose it takes more thought to write prose than
to write poetry? (Some pupils reply " yes " and some " no.")
TEACHER: That would be an interesting question to debate, wouldn't
it? They were beginning to think more. What is thinking?
PUPIL : Reasoning.
A Smaller Number of Questions 61
TEACHER: Sometimes it is a little different from reasoning; you just
sit down and remember things that have happened. And how would you
PUPIL : Reflection.
TEACHER: That is just right. They were coming to reflect upon things;
and what was another thing that went with that? As you reflect upon
what you have done and upon what you are going to do and upon what
your neighbors are doing, and what you think they ought to do, you grow
wise. But what is preliminary to that?
PUPIL: You grow mature.
TEACHER: Yes, more mature; that is good.
PUPIL: More critical.
TEACHER: That is just the right word.
Nine memory questions follow, and then:
TEACHER : Herodotus listened to all these tales that were told him.
Did they make scientific history, do you think?
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Would that be accurate, to put down everything that every-
body told you? What was the difference between Herodotus and Thucyd-
ides; was the man himself upright; did he keep strictly to what he knew
PUPIL: He loved the truth.
TEACHER: Is that a good quality in historians?
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: I think it is one of the very finest cures for gossip, because
if once you learn to criticize this is the critical age, isn't it? If you
once learn to criticize the statements that people make, you won't believe
everything that is told you by the neighbors. Herodotus believed every-
thing, wrote it all down. Thucydides did not write down everything
because he wanted the truth. What was the difference between Thucydides
The last question called for comparison of facts as also another
upon the same topic. " Which do you think had the more mili-
tary subject, Thucydides or Xenophon?" The remaining judg-
ment questions call for incidental opinions, and are scattered.
Thus at intervals throughout a lesson that was interesting in
many ways the pupils were thrown upon their own resources
and encouraged to exercise their individual powers of discrim-
ination. It will be noticed, however, that the judgments were
largely upon choice of words with reference to historical inter-
pretation. Removing many of the quoted questions from the
history setting, one might as easily believe that they were taken
from an English lesson.
oj The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
Unfortunately, I am not able to find in the six history manu-
scripts before me many questions involving judgments that are
more strictly historical, unless we except a few such as the
Was that something to be desired that Europe should be saved from
Why was the saving of Christianity to the world better than if it had
been converted to Mohammedanism!
Do you think that Congress's treatment of Arnold in reference to those
charges was justified!
What feature of Arnold's treason do you consider was most reprehensi-
ble, most open to criticism!
What might be interpreted as a flag of truce!
Do you think Aristides really meant it (The Delian League) should be
a fair distribution of power!
If we cannot find in a fair range of practice any indication
of historical judgments, the deduction is obvious that there is a
significant discrepancy between the JUDGMENT aim and the
MEMORY practice in the teaching of history.
Returning to Table VI we find indications that English lessons
are not as slavishly committed to the use of memory questions
as history lessons. The type of question that calls for reflection
seems to have a distinct place in English work, and many of
the memory questions are of the associative type rather than the
purely verbal. To illustrate this fact, I will quote at some
length from a stenographic lesson on Tennyson's Elaine (third-
year English). Leading up to the contrast in character of the
Queen and Elaine we find the following questions and answers :
TEACHER: How about that point!
PUPIL: The queen never told him to stay at home, but he happened
to look at her and catch her eye, and he thought she didn't want him
to go and fight, but she told him she did want him to go.
TEACHER: For what reason!
PUPIL: Because there had been so much rumor in the court about his
love for the queen, and she thought Arthur had some suspicions himself.
TEACHER: Were her reasons for wanting him to go high or low!
PUPIL : Low.
TEACHER: A mere fear of gossip; that brings us to the question of
the queen's character; all the way through what sort of a woman does
she show herself to be!
PUPIL: I don't think she was at all an honest woman, very deceitful,
very faithless, she really had no love for the king, and she loved Launcelot,
I don 't see why she married the king, unless to be queen..
A Smaller Number of Questions 63
TEACHER: Evidently she is faithless to him now; how does her mind
work, along just and noble lines or not?
PUPIL : No.
TEACHER: Does that come out in any other way?
PUPIL: After, when she is jealous of Elaine.
TEACHER: When she hears the news of the tournament, do you remem-
ber how she takes it?
PUPIL: She goes to her room and throws diamonds in the river.
TEACHER: The thing that hurts her most is what?
PUPIL: He wore Elaine's emblem.
TEACHER: If she really loved Launcelot herself, what would have hurt
PUPIL: That he had been wounded.
TEACHER: And probably unto death; how does Elaine think of it?
PUPIL: Thinks only of him.
TEACHER: The difference between the two. In comparing Elaine with
the queen, is there any other contrast?
PUPIL: Elaine is very simple, and the queen is Elaine is not worldly-
wise, is very innocent.
TEACHER: That comes out in what ways?
PUPIL: She doesn't know what love is; she had never been outside
the castle; and she doesn't try to hide her love, and the queen tries to
do all she can to hide it.
PUPIL: I don't think that is particularly against her, for she had to
TEACHER: That is true, and yet would Elaine have had the skill to
hide her love whatever the situation was? Elaine was open and frank
and above-board. Is there any man in the poem who is like that?
PUPIL: The king; there is a man like the queen, too.
TEACHER: Who is that?
PUPIL: The man who goes on the quest.
TEACHER: What is his name?
PUPIL : Gawain.
TEACHER: He shows what?
PUPIL: He is worldly- wise and polite, pleasing to see, but he is false,
untrue to the king.
TEACHER: His lack of truth comes out.
PUPIL : Doesn 't do what the king sends him to do.
TEACHER: What else does he do that seems underhand, or not quite
PUPIL: He gives the diamond to Elaine to give to Launcelot, and goes
back and says he cannot find him.
PUPIL : Didn 't ask to see the shield, and makes love to Elaine.
TEACHER : All the way through he is really not upright and true. Come
back for a moment to Elaine, and her innocence and simplicity; how do
other people treat Elaine?
PUPIL: Her father and brothers regard her as little girl, give her very
64 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
much her own way; they call her wilful, but I don't think she is, I didn't
see it in her actions.
TEACHER: In what other ways did they treat her as a child!
PUPIL: In giving her the diamond, they thought it ought not to be
given to her but to the queen.
TEACHER: What else did they do that makes her feel uncomfortable
when Launcelot first comes f
PUPIL: They talk about her in her presence with strangers.
TEACHER: The very point of being talked over in the presence of
strangers is embarrassing to a girl who is old enough to feel that she
isn't any longer a child. There are other little points that show that
in the eyes of her family she was a little girl. So far as we have con-
sidered it, you see this poem is a composition of contrasted characters,
a simple, frank, childlike girl is contrasted with a worldly-wise scheming
woman, the queen. This courtly, gentlemanly, but not altogether honest
and straightforward Gawain is contrasted with the simple and manly
The next time, in finishing this poem, consider Launcelot, whether he
is an out and out scoundrel, or whether he is noble and manly at heart,
The field of English is rich in opportunities for judgment ques-
tions. It has often seemed to me, as I followed one class after
anpther through a day's activities, that the English hour is the
only one during the school day when pupils are ever allowed to
have any ideas or judgments of their own. The English lesson
is frequently an oasis of thought activity in a desert of fact. This
may be due to the fact that English instruction has been eman-
cipated in a sense from the thraldom of bookishness that still
grips history instruction. Pupils in English are no longer com-
pelled to study a book telling about every masterpiece in the
English language : instead, they are expected to know intimately
a very few good things and in the process of knowing them
other forms of intellectual activity besides verbal memory are
called into exercise. Such freedom would be just as possible for
history instruction, if the makers of texts and of courses of study
would get away from that stupendous sequence of political events
from 4000 B. c. to the present, and see the truly educative
importance of living for a time with a few big human events.
IV. Applying the measure of oral expression.
Oral expression does not show the improvement it would be
natural to expect from the lesser number of questions. There
is everywhere too much talking done by the teacher to permit of
A Smaller Number of Questions 65
much oral expression from the pupils : and in many subjects there
is too close adherence to the repetition of text to permit of any
degree of freedom or originality in expression.
We have been taught to believe that English lessons illustrate
the highest standards available in amount, freedom, and quality
of oral expression. Teachers of history and science and mathe-
matics are everywhere urged to give thought to the oral expression
of their pupils, but they are never held to quite the same standards
of attainment as those set for the English teachers. The con-
clusions that have been forced upon me in the series of studies
here recorded are substantially that in the matter of freedom of
expression, correct diction, and distinct enunciation, lessons in
English, on the whole, show little improvement in practice over
The aim that is most apparent in English lessons is the " ap-
preciation " aim. It seems to be a well-established ideal in Eng-
lish instruction, showing results, in most of the classes under
observation, that are most gratifying. The form and the fullness
of expression, however, seem not to be factors of any consider-
able importance. " Give me the thought, Mary : never mind
the words : now listen while / word it for you " this is the spirit
though not in so many words that finds reflection in many
class rooms. It is part of the mistaken conception of education
that it is possible to teach children to be self-reliant by doing
things for them.
Sometimes the failure to elicit good expression is due to the
fact that teachers have adopted the lawyers' practice of embody-
ing in the phraseology of their questions the substance of the
subject under discussion, allowing the pupils to merely punctuate
the story now and then with monosyllabic answers. Where such
practices exist, it makes only slight difference to the cause of
instruction whether there are two hundred questions or one
Sometimes the failure to elicit good expression is due to the
fact that while teachers may ask fairly good questions, they are
satisfied with insufficient answers. They are content to pick a
portion of an answer here, and a portion there, without requiring
pupils to collect and round out these tidbits into a completed
thought. Pupils soon learn when a teacher is satisfied with
66 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
This form of answer secured by picking here and there, makes
a composite affair that may contribute to the uses of instruction
or to its abuses, accordingly as it is treated. The exigencies of
instruction demand for the " composite " answer a somewhat
definite place in instruction because it is by means of accretions
of fact here, and suggestion there, and hint from another source,
that our knowledge of a subject is augmented. The composite
answer may be used in purposeful ways ; its abuse lies in allowing
it to foster guessing processes and shiftless habits of thought. By
way of illustration, I will quote a few paragraphs from the lesson
comparing the old and the new ballads :
' ' Let us see about the spirit in which they were written, that is, the kind
of qualities the people in those ballads showed, and the kind of qualities
in human nature people of that day liked. "
PUPIL: I think bravery.
TEACHER (writing bravery): Anything else? BRAVERY.
PUPIL: A hero and a villain.
TEACHER: Hero and villain; in other words, you take sides?
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: What other qualities besides bravery?
PUPIL: Treachery, of the king, in the ballad of Johnie Armstrong.
TEACHER: Yes, and the hero shows what quality?
PUPIL: He believes in the king even when he is summoned before him.
TEACHER: Good faith on one side, and treachery on the other. Any-
TEACHER: Honor, yes. (Writes honor.) HONOR.
PUPIL: A great deal of honor among themselves.
TEACHER: Loyalty to each other; and as regards their enemies, what?
PUPIL: They used to fight for fun, and they had certain rules; they
were not really angry, they had to keep certain rules.
TEACHER: In other words?
PUPIL: They couldn't do just as they wanted to.
TEACHER: There were rules of honor even toward your enemy, a sort
of amateur spirit.
PUPIL: Courtesy to their enemies? COURTESY.
TEACHER: Courtesy, and perhaps we might say this includes being
true to the rules."
In this series of questions the words BRAVERY, HONOR, LOY-
ALTY, COURTESY, constituted a composite answer for the original
question. The words were written on the board as fast as they
were rescued from the debris of incorrect or partly correct
A Smaller Number of Questions 67
answers of the pupils who were thinking aloud. The fact that they
were thus collected and visualized gave the series of questions a
value that would have been lacking without a summary. The best
summary is the one made by the pupils in answer to the final
question " Now tell me in complete form the qualities in human
nature which people of that day liked." Answer : Bravery, honor,
A series of What else? or What next? questions, without the
final collection and expression by the pupils, is a waste of valu-
Sometimes the failure to elicit good expression is due to am-
biguity in the phraseology of the question, or to the common habit
of asking two questions at once, illustrations of which can be
found in many of the lessons quoted.
V. Little thought given to the needs of individuals.
Here again, with the smaller number of questions there is
opportunity for the needs of the individual students to be con-
sidered, but I have found no indication that the opportunity has
VI. The class room the place for displaying knowledge.
This criticism pertains as directly to the lessons with few ques-
tions as to those with many. The thought that we should make
the class room a place for displaying knowledge is nowhere present
in any aim of education, but it seems to be everywhere present
in practice. It is inconceivable that teachers need to ask of six-
teen-year-old pupils as many as one hundred and twenty-five
questions in order to find out whether or not they have learned
a five-page lesson. Why then do we fill a class period with
treadmill work of this type?
VII. Organisation of subject matter.
In the matter of organization of subject matter there seems to
be very little difference between the lessons with many questions
and those with few. Organization of new material and sum-
marizing of results seem to be negligible factors in class-room
work, except as the work is done by text-books and teachers.
Wherever the book is the medium of instruction the organization
incorporated on its pages constitutes, in a majority of cases,
the basis of class work. There is rarely any attempt made to
68 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
reconstruct subject matter in ways better suited to the needs of
individual groups of students. It is the book first and always.
All of that train of educational opportunity that accompanies
the process of organizing subject matter and teaching pupils how
to organize and to summarize is completely lost sight of in slavish
adherence to the text-book. It is the type of education that con-
cerns itself with teaching the book instead of teaching the children.
The evil grows as pupils are made to depend more and more
upon texts for instruction when they get into the higher grades
of elementary school and into high school. At the very time when
they should grow in the power to discriminate, to select and to
apply what is vital to them in all the vast encyclopedia of fact
presented to them, they are being stuffed with the masses of
fact selected for them and arranged for them by some one else.
Small wonder that we find so little knowledge well digested.
Facts have " relative values " according to the uses which they
serve. It is part of the educative process to reveal values and
to train pupils to the habit of measuring relative values. 1 This
cannot be accomplished through the type of recitation that contains
seventy-five or more questions testing verbal memory. Here we
have a lesson on Charlemagne from Robinson's " History of
Western Europe." The lesson is " heard " according to the organ-
ization by topics as found on the margin of the text and the
number of questions per topic is roughly indicated here:
< 'harlemagne's personal appearance 3
His education 2
The Charlemagne of romance 3
Charlemagne's idea of a great Christian Empire 4
Conquest of Saxons 6
Conversion of Saxons 3
Foundation of towns in Northern Germany 6
"N'magno becomes king of the Lombards 2
Incorporation of Aquitaine and Bavaria 6
Charlemagne 's foreign policy 5
hes and Margraves 4
< 'harlemagne in Spain 3
Charlemagne crowned Emperor 1
Charlemagne merited his title 4
< ''>ntimiity of the Roman Empire 6
< 'hnrlf'TTiagne's system of government 4
' Missi Dominici " 2
Hark olrmonts before Charlemagne 6
Elements of learning preserved by Church 10
Establishment of schools. . 8
1 See McMurry, How to Study and Teaching How to Study.
A Smaller Number of Questions 69
The recitation of this lesson proceeded with monotonous regu-
larity, all facts evidently being regarded as of equal value. The
fact that Charlemagne's nose was " somewhat above the common
size " was received with the same degree of emphasis as the truly
significant fact of his power as an organizer. Such a lesson might
well be illustrated thus, one vertical mark representing each of the
questions indicated above.
In such a lesson everything proceeds on a dead level of uni-
formity ; there is no hint of relative values ; there are no mounts
of prominence ; there is no summarizing of the few leading facts
to be carried over as the basis for the next day's work. If a
lesson is ever worth teaching it is sure to contain certain facts
that are more important than others, facts that may be designated
as mounts of prominence. Around each of these mounts a cer-
tain accumulation of preliminary or explanatory instruction must
of necessity centre in order to raise the essentials to eminence,
the author of the book in question suggests on page 79 a
plan of organization which seemed to be wholly lost sight of in
the recitation. He says, " We shall consider him (Charlemagne)
first as a conqueror, then as an organizer and creator of govern-
mental institutions, and lastly as a promoter of culture and en-
lightenment." 1 These three values combined with the preliminary
ones regarding his appearance and personality would easily con-
stitute four mounts of prominence for the lesson around which
all explanatory material would naturally group itself in relative
degrees of importance.
To carry a homely illustration further, such a lesson might be
presented thus :
The four mounts of prominence suggested by the author are
represented .by a, b, c, d. A certain number of questions upon
1 Robinson, History of Western Europe, p. 79.
70 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
minor facts are necessary to raise these significant facts to rela-
tive prominence, but this accomplished, they sink into insignifi-
cance and need no longer be retained in memory. A, b, c, d, are
essentials ; they bear a definite relation to each other and to the
preceding work; they serve as basis for future work.
It is not sufficient that a, b, c, d, be illuminated for an instant
by the searchlight of the teacher's intelligence; they must be
appreciated by the pupils; they must be sought for and found
by them as far as possible, and fixed by repetition at the close
of the hour.
This matter of summarizing essentials at the close of an hour
is a very necessary step towards ability to organize new subject
matter when one approaches it alone and unaided. I have not
found it to be a general feature of class instruction in our schools
to expect pupils to make summaries of work. In only three of
the one hundred lessons observed were there any attempts to
summarize at the close of the hour; in several more there was
at the beginning of an hour a gathering up of main facts of a
preceding lesson. This latter method is rarely successful unless
the summary has been well made at the close of the former lesson,
for a summary, to be potent, should come when all factors are
fresh in memory. Frequently the summary is made by the teacher
at the beginning of the hour, as in the following:
TEACHER: Yesterday, in your work, we took up the results of the
Persian wars, and we saw what the result was to Persia, how they had
been limited in their power; and we saw the result to Greece, how they
had won the victories, and how they were getting to be pretty confident of
their own powers; and we saw how Athens had seen her opportunity,
and how she could build up her power. We saw also that while she was
absolutely destroyed, her buildings all gone, she still felt she had a city,
and she saw the possibility of bringing that back into power. Who was
leading her at that moment!
The pupils could have collected a summary of the chief re-
sults of the Persian wars at the close of their preceding lesson
just as well as the teacher, if they had been expected to do so.
Then the call to attention on being asked to repeat it at the be-
ginning of this hour would have been a more effective stimulus
than the one that greeted them when the teacher began to sum-
marize for them.
Our teachers seem to feel that pupils cannot do things well
enough to be trusted with the most important activities of a
A Smaller Number of Questions 71
lesson. The consequence is that the over-zealous teacher invari-
ably steps into the breach and performs the work himself. The
stenographic lessons substantiate this statement at one point and
another. It certainly is easier for the teacher to give a sum-
mary than to wait for the pupils to work it out, and if the
possession of that summary is the one thing desired it would be
quite right to hand down summaries from one generation to
another just as we hand down books and manuscripts. But
the point is that the summary does not amount to a row of pins
except as the result of a process of Intellectual activity.
What should we think of a teacher of manual work who said
to his boys, " The hardest thing you have to do to-day is to
make a perfect mortise and tenon joint. It will take you too
long to do it, so I will make it for you, while you look on."
Yet here is the text-book teacher who says, " The most impor-
tant thing just here is a good summary; I want you to take
it down in your note-books as I give it to you and learn it for
So far as our data furnish evidence, the paramount con-
clusions regarding our ability to measure the efficiency of in-
struction by the number of questions are these:
A LARGE NUMBER OF QUESTIONS is AN INDISPUTABLE INDEX
OF BAD TEACHING (except in some modern language and de-
A SMALL NUMBER OF QUESTIONS DOES NOT NECESSARILY IN-
DICATE GOOD TEACHING.
Efficiency of instruction involves good questioning ; good ques-
tioning is synonymous with the use of good questions. That we
do not find good questions identified with instruction to any ap-
preciable extent even in lessons reflecting a relatively small num-
ber of questions, may find its explanation in any one, or all, of
the following conditions : (a) The absence of clearly defined
purposes for instruction; (b) failure to appreciate the function
of the question as a medium of instruction; (c) dominance of
the text-book; (d) the feeling of indifference to the methods
of the recitation in colleges and training schools for teachers;
(e) the almost total neglect of supervision of instruction in sec-
EFFICIENCY OF INSTRUCTION AS MEASURED
BY THE QUALITY OF THE QUESTIONS
What do we mean when we talk about the quality of a ques-
tion? What is a good question? Since the number of ques-
tions cannot be the full measure of efficiency in questioning,
what other tests must be applied to determine efficiency? "If
I always ask Why questions and How questions, shall I be a
better teacher than if I ask When and Where and What ques-
tions ? " asks one teacher who has turned the searchlight of in-
vestigation upon his own methods of instruction.
The attempt to deduce a formula for guidance in phrasing
questions or to write out a prescription for the cure of all the
evils of questioning would be as futile as to reduce the ideal of
instruction to a sentence, or the philosophy of education to a
It is impossible to say that a Why question will always be a
better one than a When or a What question, because there are
other elements besides form that enter into the consideration of
quality or worth. I presume there is little doubt but that the
best question so far as motivation is concerned is the one a
person asks when he really wishes to know something the kind
that come spontaneously when he seeks information to round
out and promote thought at just the point where help is needed.
In the world outside the class room, in all phases of social inter-
course, the one who wishes concrete information asks questions
to secure it. In the relationship of adults with adults, adults
and children, and children with each other, the one who wishes
to learn is the questioner. A child questions persistently in his
search for knowledge and his questions are well-aimed and
purposeful forces for education.
Within a few months, I have chanced to hear two conversa-
tions carried on in front of a window through which students
The Quality of Questions 73
could be seen modeling in clay. In one instance the conversa-
tion between child and father ran thus : " What are they doing
down there, daddy ? " " They are modeling in clay." " What
are they doing that for?" "Well, they want to learn how to
make a statue that looks like somebody." " Is the somebody
there?" "Yes, he is probably sitting in the corner." "What
are they making it of ? " " Of clay. We will walk around on
1 1 6th Street, if you like, and I will show you a statue that was
made by a sculptor who began it just as these students are
making that one." We can picture the child's introduction to
Daniel French's Alma Mater in front of the Columbia Library
and the unfolding of his intelligence regarding its construction
as the boy plied his questions, and received stimulating answers.
A few days later, standing before the same window another
child asked practically the same initial question of his nurse,
who gave the response, " O, making mud pies, I guess." " What
are those big people making mud pies for, Mary?" " O, don't
bother me now with any more questions." Whereupon the
child turned his attention and his activities to teasing his dog.
In both cases the questions were " natural," that is, the would-
be learners were the questioners. The educational opportunity
was the same: in the first instance the learner's initiative was
judiciously guided; in the other it was killed outright.
These situations are frequently paralleled in class rooms. The
natural question has the richest functioning values but it must
be admitted that it cannot find full freedom in the class room
because of the complexity of the educational problem when a
group of children is to be instructed. It is equally true that
the natural question does not need to be barred completely
from the class room; there is plenty of opportunity to entertain
good natural questions, and to turn them to account as important
assets in instruction. A sensible natural question is a valuable
return for instruction, for it is an indication that the pupil's
mind is operating " under its own steam " ; the momentum once
secured, the teacher needs to exercise only the guiding hand.
As soon as the question is taken over by the teacher in the
class room, it ceases to be " natural " and assumes a " formal "
value. The teacher does not ask the questions because he really
desires the forthcoming information as so much concrete knowl-
74 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
edge; he knows that already. The pupil, in answering, realizes
this and he tells you what he thinks you want him to tell. The
teacher seeks information, but in a different sense. He asks
questions to see if his pupil knows, or to help him to know, or
to secure a clue for the direction of the next question. Only in
this interpretation is the information of any value to the ques-
tioner. In this sense the motive of the formal question is wholly
different from that of the natural question.
In kindergarten and lower grades of elementary school where
instruction is more nearly natural, and where class work centers
about the interests of the children, the questioning activity is
likely to be more natural ; that is, both teacher and pupils, while
working over some vital problem, ask questions whose answers
are really wanted. In this way the question and answer recita-
tion may become a true conversation hour, with pupils asking
and pupils and teacher answering, or teacher asking and pupils
answering, the teacher the while skillfully guiding the class
towards a desired goal.
Such an ideal use of the question and answer recitation is just
as much to be desired for upper grades of elementary school,
for high school, and for college instruction ; that it does not now
exist in the higher schools is due in part to the differences in
motive of instruction. It may be just as desirable that education
in upper grades and increasingly in high school and college
should center about the real interests of the learners, but that
motive has not yet been generally accepted. Instruction in the
'higher schools is still far more formal than it is in the kinder-
garten and elementary school. The questioning reflects it and
we find teachers generally using the question in the formal way
as an implement of instruction.
Since it is not the purpose of this study to promulgate an
educational theory of instruction for higher schools, but rather
to stand upon the ideals that are generally accepted and to
measure the current practice of the better class of teachers by
these established standards, our chief concern is with the formal
question rather than the natural question. Hence, in consider-
ing further the worth of a question, it is the worth of the formal
question that I have in mind.
How, then, can we judge the worth or the quality of a ques-
The Quality of Questions 75
tion? In estimating the quality of a formal question, I should
say there are at least three elements we need to know : ( I ) the
degree of reflection it stimulates; (2) its adaptability to the ex-
perience and the work of the pupil; (3) its " motor-power " in
drawing forth a well rounded thought and adequate expression
for the same.
I. A good question should stimulate refaction.
Every question provokes thought if it produces any sort of
accurate answer, but not every question stimulates reflection.
Even the extent and the intensity of reflection may vary widely
and should vary somewhat in every lesson so that all questions
will not operate in the same groove nor keep in motion the same
processes of thought activity. As we have already observed,
part of the difficulty with the present-day practice is that so
many questions furnish exercise for verbal memory alone. As-
sociative memory, even, is neglected along with other processes
of discrimination, association and judgment.
I think I can best illustrate my meaning regarding the extent
and intensity of reflection by comparison of a few sets of
When was the battle of Waterloo fought?
What is a polygon?
What is the exception in the declension of dea?
What kings of England led crusades?
How many times is the number six contained in sixty?
Where is the cotton belt?
For these questions you either know or you do not know the
answers. No amount of reflection will produce the fact if it is
not already in memory. The question stimulates memory and in
that sense it provokes thought, but the element of reflection is
not present to any appreciable degree, as it is in the following
What qualities in the character of Brutus are brought home to us in
the last scene of Julius Caesar?
What color in drapery will look best with this wall paper?
What is there about a gray squirrel that reminds you of a rat?
Why do you like the Lady of the Lake better than Marmion?
Do you consider that an apology was called for?
76 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
These questions cannot be answered from memory alone. The
associations, discriminations, and individual judgments must be
made by the one who is questioned, using as his basis certain
facts in his possession. A degree of reflection is called for, al-
though the intensity of reflection is not especially marked.
With the following group the intensity of reflection is more
How did religion promote the growth of the Arabic and Carolingian
To what extent did Jefferson and the early American statesmen owe
their ideas on education to Rousseau?
Place in your note-book as heading " Mason-and-Dixon's Line " and
enter all fitting information as you proceed.
What various forms of self -activity can you discover among the children
of any class room?
What special qualifications in addition to knowledge of subject matter,
seem to you desirable for the teacher of history in the secondary school?
Contrast the treatment of nature in Elizabethan literature, giving refer-
ences to specific authors by way of concrete illustration.
Trace changes in the concept " tyrant. "
In considering the Eodentiae, what are the chief points of difference
between the Sciurus Carolinensis and the Mus Musculus?
Any one of the last set of questions furnishes food for con-
siderable reflection even for adults. The ability to cope with
problems such as these and to respond to them adequately is a
resultant of the educative process. There must be some ques-
tions stimulating reflection introduced into daily class exercises
if our pupils are ever to grow in ability to reflect.
II. A good question should be adapted to the experience of
One element to be considered in making a fair estimate of the
question is its adaptability to the experiences of the one ques-
tioned. By way of illustration of this point, I will quote a
class-room experience. The following question was proposed
to a group of college students for over-night reflection : " Is
the number of questions asked by the teacher a test of good
It seemed to be a good question for mature and thoughtful
people preparing for the teaching profession a question that
would plough rather deeply into experience and promote some
The Quality of Questions 77
serious reflection. As one section of the class assembled next
day, the question was repeated and the following answers strag-
gled in : "I don't think so." " Yes, I believe it is." " Too
many questions show bad teaching." " Sometimes teachers do
not ask questions enough," etc., sufficient to show that the ques-
tion had not gripped the thought life of any member of the class.
What is the inference regarding the nature of the question? It
was designed to stimulate reflection but it failed of its accom-
plishment. Instead of getting into the ground it failed even
to scratch the surface.
Another section of the class met later in the day and the
question was again presented. A student took the initiative
promptly, saying: "I wish to discuss that question; I have
thought of it for some time and I have reached these conclu-
First : the number of questions is not a criterion of good or
Second: the mere fact of number does not give sufficient
data upon which to base a decision.
Third : the quality of the leading questions must be known
before even the number can be criticized."
Everyone was ready for the discussion which was generally
thoughtful and profitable. The question had ploughed into the
ground quite thoroughly and stirred up processes of thought
activity that did not cease even with the dismissal of the class.
There was no doubt regarding the value of the question for that
The explanation of the different attitude of the two groups
was found in the fact that the first section consisted of college
seniors who had never taught and they had little or nothing to
draw upon in the way of experience in such matters, while the
second section included men and women in the forefront of
their profession. This is an instance where one question had
to be judged both a poor question and a good one: poor where
it was not adapted to the group, and good where it fitted exactly
A question, then, cannot be tested as an intellectual thing apart
from the group to which it is addressed : to be a good question
it must be rightly related to experience in order to promote
78 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
III. A good question should draw forth a well rounded
A third element in estimating the worth of a question is its
" motor-power " in drawing forth a complete thought. The ex-
pression of the thought should be commensurate with the com-
pleteness of the thought.
A lecturer may propose a question to a group of adults with
such effect that some of his hearers will carry it away with them
and live with it for days or weeks without giving expression to
the thoughts aroused. This may be considered the highest type
of question if it stimulates the adult mind to continued activity.
But with children in the formative period we cannot expect sus-
tained concentration without frequent responses. Hence we ask
simple questions and compel prompt answers in order to keep
attention focused upon the subject in hand. When we ask a
question calling for an association of ideas, we have no way of
measuring the potency of the question except by the answer.
The answer must fully reflect the result of the association called
for or else we are in danger of fostering superficiality where we
aim to develop accuracy and thoroughness.
Careless and inaccurate answers are frequently accepted. This
is sometimes due to ambiguity in the phraseology of the question ;
sometimes to the fact that a question is too difficult to elicit
good mental reactions, and sometimes to a teacher's failure to
hold the question in attention long enough for thought processes
to be completed.
In illustration of the first type of question that must naturally
fail to evoke satisfactory expression from pupils, I quote the
following assortment of questions, each of which readily reveals
its particular fault in form :
What was the greatest achievement of Charlemagnet What title did
the Pope confer upon him! (Double question.)
What was the theorem that preceded the one that Mary gave last!
Don't you think the language was hard to understandf
Does the story end well with the lovers all married at the end! (Answer
embodied in the question.)
The Saxons occupied all that country between Cologne and the Elbe
and north to Bremen. They had no towns or roads and very few posses-
sions so they could move easily and hide themselves away easily. Who
The Quality of Questions 79
There was a substance in the glass and I added something to it,
changing its color to ?
By way of illustration of the point that a question is some-
times too difficult to elicit good mental reactions, I will quote
from a lesson in breadmaking:
' ' When I put the bread to rise this morning, I wanted it to rise quickly.
How did I accomplish it? "
The answer came, " You put it in a place between 70 and 90 degrees,
for it to rise/ 7 (A good answer.)
Then the teacher asked, " Tell me all about it, the setting and rising."
Follow, if you will, the reactions of the group to this question
keeping in mind that we are expecting to learn all about the
setting and rising of bread.
TEACHER: Tell me all about it, the setting and rising.
EDNA: Yeast is one cell plant, that feeds on moisture, feeds on sugar,
and when it reproduces it gives off carbon dioxide gas
TEACHER: Is she really answering the question? Don't tell me every-
thing you know about yeast, just answer the question. What was the
PUPILS : If you wanted it to rise quickly, what should you do ?
TEACHER: Did the fact that the yeast reproduced, or budded, have
anything to do with this, or did she tell us that too soon? Begin again,
EDNA: Put in a place between 70 and 90 degrees, because otherwise it
wouldn't rise, yeast wouldn't act.
TEACHER: How does the yeast make the bread rise?
ELAINE: When it grows it gives off carbon dioxide gas, and that makes
the bread rise, etc.
The question " Tell me all about it, the setting and the rising "
was presumably designed to provoke a summary of the processes,
both practical and scientific, in the making of bread. It failed
to draw a complete thought. At least part of the difficulty in
this case was due to the fact that the scope of the question was
too great. The pupils had not sufficient power of organization .
to give spontaneously a full answer to a question involving so
many factors. This question is on a par with " Compare Cooper
with Scott " ; " Compare nitrogen with oxygen " ; " Compare the
American government with the English," types of all-embrac-
ing questions that teachers do sometimes ask of a pupil, ap-
parently expecting satisfactory answers to be gathered up in
his thought world and expressed in suitable form within thirty
8o The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
The nature of the answer that the teacher draws in response
to a question of this sort should be in itself sufficient rebuke,
the bread lesson to wit. The question, " Compare Cooper with
Scott/' once brought a few fragmentary answers thus : " Both
were writers of stories yarns one was an Englishman and one
an American. Scott wrote about black knights and Cooper wrote
about red Indians. Cooper told the truth about his Indians, but
Scott did not about the knights/' Five or six different pupils
contributed to this " composite " answer. The fragments in
themselves were not objectionable but the answers passed as a
satisfactory " comparison of Cooper and Scott/' and each one
of the five pupils thought he had answered it. It is through such
processes as these that we pauperize the intellects of normal
and healthy-minded children who should be questioned accord-
ing to their capacity and then held to the completion of the
thought called for.
In the same lesson on breadmaking there are two questions
that seem to be reasonably good : " What does the yeast do when
it doesn't get any sugar? " and " If yeast doesn't have any sugar
to feed upon, will it make bread rise? " Considered apart from
their answers we should say that they would stimulate a degree
of reflection and that they are adapted to the work of high school
girls studying the processes of breadmaking. Now read them
in the context.
TEACHER: Sometimes we use no sugar; we can make it simply water,
flour, salt and yeast; what does the yeast do when it doesn't get any
PUPIL : Moisture.
TEACHER: If yeast doesn't have sugar to feed upon, will it make
TEACHER: How so?
PUPIL : Warmth.
Those questions were well designed but they failed of fruition
when the teacher accepted " moisture " as an answer to the first
and " warmth " for the third. The answers certainly did not
reveal completeness of thought. I believe the girls had sufficient
experience to answer accurately and fully, but these haphazard
words were accepted and consequently the questions did not
function as they should in drawing forth completed thoughts. In
The Quality of Questions 81
this instance the failure of the question to do its work was not
due to the phraseology of the question nor to a degree of com-
prehensiveness that was beyond them but rather to the failure
of the teacher to stay with her question until the pupils gave
the time and attention necessary to round out the thought.
In all these illustrations the answers were inaccurate or incom-
plete; the reason in each case was close at hand in the nature
of the question or in its treatment in the hands of the teacher.
I believe therefore that we have not the full measure of the
efficiency of a question until we know the answer that is given
to it. The answer should give adequate expression of a well
With the above mentioned criteria of the worth of a question
or series of questions as a guide, I will gather up from the
various manuscripts some of the questions that approximate more
or less closely the type of question that contributes to efficient
instruction. If they do not appear to the reader to possess any
special value kindly consider that I am quoting the best I can
There are about thirty natural questions in the total of two
thousand in the stenographic reports. Some of them were asked
by the teachers when they wished to learn whether or not note
books were ready, etc. A few were asked by the pupils when
they really wished to clear up a doubtful point, as with the
PUPIL: Can you have rhyme in blank verse?
PUPIL: Wordsworth was not trying to imitate the old ballads was he?
PUPIL: Can't the ammonia vapor turn back into a liquid?
TEACHER: That is another reasonable question: Can't all the am-
monia vapor turn back into a liquid as it cools off? The only trouble
with that is, I shall have to say it can't. In order to liquefy ammonia
gas you have to subject it to a little pressure and very low temperature.
PUPIL: Isn't it lighter than air?
TEACHER: Yes, it is lighter.
PUPIL: The pressure of the air on the outside is greater than the
TEACHER: Yes, but supposing the ammonia gas was under the same
pressure as the atmosphere, what sort of thing would happen?
PUPIL: Would the gas dissolve?
TEACHER : That is precisely what the gas does.
The two lessons referred to on page 48 as offering something
of value in the nature of certain questions deserve some con-
82 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
sideration here. Lesson III is quoted at length, beginning on
page 33. Lesson V is printed in full in the Appendix.
The introductory question in the portion of Lesson III quoted
on page 33 gets away from the text-book and yet it is related
to the work in hand. The idea of sequels has been suggested.
The teacher asks:
" What do you think of sequels as a rule in the -writing of books?
The teacher endeavors to make the association more personal
by changing the form of her question.
"Are any of your favorite stories written with sequels? " (No answer.)
Still more personal,
" Mary, do you recall a story with a sequel? " (Mary admits she does
not know what a sequel is.)
" Mary is bothered by the word sequel; who can help her out? What
is a sequel? "
PUPIL: A sequel is a book that has the same characters in, and comes
after the other one.
TEACHER: Did you get enough to understand it? George says a
sequel is a book that has the same characters in and comes after the
first story. Now, do you know any sequel; have you read a book with a
Now that the obscurity regarding the meaning of " sequel " is
cleared away there is profitable reflection and there is fullness
of expression. (See page 33.)
From the Marmion lesson in the Appendix the first question,
although primarily a memory question, requires a degree of
reflection in selecting from memory the parts to be given
" omitting all unnecessary details." Some of the remaining ques-
tions intended to stimulate reflection are the following:
Name all the things that you can think of in Marmion that are char-
acteristic of the Middle Ages.
What were the ideals of the knights of that period?
Have you read stories of other knights besides Marmion?
Who is the most interesting knight you have ever read about?
Do you think Marmion was a true knight?
Do you consider Marmion the hero of the poem?
In mathematics work the type of question that stimulates reflec-
tion is illustrated in the algebra lesson reported in the TEACHERS
COLLEGE RECORD. It is a development lesson upon the use of
The Quality of Questions 83
graphs in solution of simultaneous equations. A short block
of questions is inadequate to show anything of content values
for a developmental lesson, but they may serve to show that the %
pupils are expected to make careful discriminations and render
decisions at each step of the development and its application.
TEACHER: If I should take x = 2y 4: , could you find a pair of values,
PUPIL: Yes, y = 2%.
TEACHER: Will you represent the pair for me, x = 2 1 / 4, y = 2%; where
PUPIL: I should say about the same place. (At the board.)
TEACHER: Let me see where you think that place is.
PUPIL: How did this go (referring to a point previously placed) out
TEACHER : Yes.
PUPIL : x = 2% would be about here.
TEACHER: That is right, thank you, etc.
Some single questions selected at random from the stenographic
reports to illustrate a measure of reflection are the following:
TEACHER: Turn to the next ballad, Lady Clare, would that have
pleased the old ballad writers?
PUPIL: I think it would have; it is just the kind of love story they
liked, it all turned out well.
TEACHER: What do you think sterling qualities of mind means here?
(Answer in full on page 60.)
TEACHER: How does the next step verify that?
PUPIL: It turned the litmus from red to blue.
TEACHER: What quality goes with timidity as a rule?!
PUPIL : Shyness.
TEACHER: Which do you think had the more military subject (for his
writings) Thucydides or Xenophon?
TEACHER: Was it more real?
TEACHER: Was it worth while?
TEACHER: What quality that we mentioned does that illustrate?
TEACHER: How did it make the Greeks feel to conquer the Persians?
PUPIL: Very proud.
TEACHER: Very proud. There is a better word than that.
PUPIL : Vain.
TEACHER: I think I should not say vain.
PUPIL : Satisfied.
84 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
TEACHER: Isn't there a better expression!
TEACHER: That is good, independent, but there is still a better one.
PUPIL : Self-confident.
TEACHER: That is just what I wanted self-confident.
TEACHER: Is Lord Ullin's Daughter the kind of story you think would
appeal to ancient writers?
PUPIL: It seems so; this one was about an elopement; they seem to
write that kind of story.
TEACHER: Now was that something to be desired that Europe should
be saved from Mohammedanism?
If I collected all the questions stimulating reflection I might
have between two and three hundred from the total of two thous-
and, but a large number of them would be the kind represented
by " What do you think, John? " " What other quality, Mary ? "
"Have you a criticism on that point, Margaret?"
Of the type of good question that compels association of ideas
by calling for a comparison of two things there are only twenty
in the entire group, ten of the twenty in one English lesson (the
lesson on comparison of old and new ballads). Teachers are
evidently doing little to invite or to compel direct associations.
Of the type of question that calls for the degree of intensity of
reflection demanded by College Entrance and Regents' questions,
I find very few indeed. For the best of these see the Marmion
lesson in the Appendix, and the scattered English lessons. No
wonder that an examination hour becomes an ordeal, if it calls
into use abilities that have had no exercise in class work.
Of memory questions I have made no mention. Pure memory
questions are good questions to use occasionally, but the element
of memory is included in all better questions. Why then ask
a half dozen pure memory questions when one better question
can be made to embody memory and at the same time call for
association in memory, and some exercise of judgment?
If teachers would embody in their scheme for the presenta-
tion of every lesson a very few thought-provoking questions
(not more than six or eight probably), questions based on the
lesson and calling for associations and discriminations and weigh-
ing of values, they would of necessity embody the salient facts
The Quality of Questions 85
of the lesson. It would not be necessary to " hear " the facts,
paragraph after paragraph.
The best part of a lesson plan is its backbone of questions
(unfortunately not often included in the plan). If they are good
questions they will incorporate teacher's aims and pupils' aims,
ultimate aims and immediate aims. If all the rest of the plan
is perfect and its backbone of questions is weak, little need be
expected for efficiency in instruction.
It is difficult to get teachers to work out a few questions for
the backbone of a lesson, for the reason that it is much easier
for them to ask a number of questions than it is to organize
subject matter and definitely determine the mounts of promi-
nence for any lesson.
I believe that the remedy for many of the present evils of
instruction lies in the improvement of our methods of questioning.
The aims of any school for the education of the streams of
pupils passing through its doors year after year must be meas-
ured by the kind of work carried on in its individual class rooms.
There are established ideals of education for secondary schools
and there are established ideals for the conduct of the recita-
tion. Even if these ideals are not wholly in accord with the
most advanced theories guiding the practice of elementary
schools, they are nevertheless worthy ideals. Furthermore, they
are possible of realization.
A fairly characteristic study of secondary class-room practice
shows us that the highest aims of education and the highest
ideals of instruction are not in evidence to any appreciable extent.
They are reserved apparently for catalogue embellishment and
for convention oratory. Who is responsible for the chasm that
exists between aims and practices in these schools ? I believe the
responsibility must first of all be shouldered by the supervising
officer, whether he is the superintendent in a small system, or
the principal in a large system, or the specially appointed super-
visor. There must be unity of purpose first of all : then there
must be supervision of instruction.
No school system would for an instant allow an inexperienced
clerk to manage its financial affairs without supervision but it
does frequently happen that novices in the teaching profession,
fresh from college, are permitted to undertake the realization
of the educational aims of the school, through the medium of
86 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
Latin, English, or history, with no professional preparation and
little or no class-room supervision. If the energies of superin-
tendent or principal are consumed by the administrative duties
of a school or system, there should be another officer of equal
or superior rank to devote himself exclusively to supervision of
In the matter of questioning alone, a supervisor could accom-
plish much for instruction in a very short time if he did nothing
more than to insist upon introducing into the plan of every
lesson a short series of related questions calling for reflection. The
results that might reasonably be expected are substantially these :
Where six or eight purposeful questions are asked and ade-
quately answered, the number of questions will be reduced; the
pace will become more normal; pupils will be forced to tie up
their facts in profitable relations ; the several questions will
serve as high lights in the lesson; pupils will have practice in
the habit of studying a lesson for the salient points ; they, will
eventually grow into the habit of organizing subject matter for
themselves. With such attainments as these we should have
some positive factors to deal with in measuring efficiency of in-
struction, and a definite basis for further constructive work.
At present, there is serious need of intelligent study and care-
ful supervision of the use of the question as a medium of instruc-
tion. Skillful supervision of questioning will of necessity force
unification of aims, better organization of subject matter, more
consistent methods of instruction, and more rational practice, for
these all stand revealed in the teacher's questions.
STENOGRAPHIC LESSON REPORT
TEACHER: Will someone give the story of Marmion, omitting all un-
necessary details? Dorothy?
DOROTHY: Marmion was riding toward Scotland with his train; he
was going there partly, I think, to delay the war Scotland was preparing
for England, and partly to find out the cause of it; and as he rode along
he came to Norham Castle, and there he stopped with his train, and
they spent an evening there, and while he was there Sir William Heron
asked him where the page was that had been with him the last time,
or whether he was only a lady-love; and Marmion asked Sir William Heron
where his wife was, and he said, in King James' Court, for ladies do not
like to stay at home all the time; next morning they started out again,
with the Palmer as a guide. In the meantime it tells about some nuns
who were going to a monastery to try the case of a nun who had broken
her vows. In the monastery there were three judges and this girl, who
was dressed as a page, and who tried to hide a sort of label I don't
know what to call it that showed she had been in Marmion 's train
TEACHER: Can anyone supply the word?
PUPIL: It was Marmion 's crest that she had on.
DOROTHY: And one of the monks there took down her hair, and it
was all beautiful round her pale face. She asked to be able to tell her
own story, and she told how Marmion had come there and wooed her, and
had taken her from the monastery and she rode as a horseboy in his
train for three years, and then he met another girl whom he thought
more fair, and had rich lands, and Constance was loved no more, and
she was very sad at this, but Clare, who was the girl that Marmion loved
now, had another lover whose name was Ralph De Wilton, and Marmion
accuses De Wilton of treason, so that they come into the lists to fight,
and Ealph De Wilton was overthrown, and Marmion would have married
Clare, but Clare had fled to the monastery. In the meantime Constance
was taken by a monk, who said he would take care of her, but who
betrayed her and took her to the monastery, and she was built into the
walls and left to die there, and the nuns went back to England, and on
the way they were captured by a Scottish vessel and kept in Scotland,
and then sent back in charge of Marmion. Then it goes on to tell about
88 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
TEACHER: That will do so far, Dorothy. Any criticism? Did she leave
out any essential points?
PUPIL: She left out the bundle of papers that Constance gave to the
TEACHER: That comes later.
PUPIL: Constance forged the letters.
TEACHER: Yes, that is true.
PUPIL: And wasn't one of those nuns Clare?
TEACHER : Yes.
PUPIL: And Castle Norham is on the borderline between Scotland and
TEACHER : Yes. Go on from that point, and omit all details that are not
necessary. Beatrice? She left Marmion having started from the Castle.
BEATRICE: He started from the Castle, and after he left Norham
Castle he arrived that evening in an inn where he and his retinue stayed.
While he was there, at Norham Castle he asked for a guide, and a
Palmer was given, and they started off, and the Palmer guided him to
this inn, and while they were there the Palmer cast gloomy looks over the
party, and a young man was asked to sing, and he said he couldn't sing
as well as Constant, as they called Constance de Beverley, the page. That
night the host told a tale, and Marmion didn't like it, it was, if you
went to a certain castle, you met your enemy, and that night he could not
rest, and one of his squires was sleeping in the hay in the barn, and
he waked him and told him he had been thinking about this tale, and
he wanted to go to this castle and see what would happen, and he went
and met there a man with whom he fought, and when he came back it
was found in the morning that another horse had been ridden, and one
of the horses died.
CARL: I don't think he went to a castle at all. The host toM the
story about the king of Scotland, and he went to find out and Marmion
went out, and the man, or rather the ghost as Marmion called it, was there.
TEACHER: He was his worst enemy.
PUPIL: Yes; and in the morning they blamed the Palmer for that,
that he myst have had something to do with it.
MARION: "When his enemy was going to kill him, he prayed to St.
George, so his enemy didn't kill him.
TEACHER: I am going to ask someone, just in a few words, to tell
the main results of the story. Carlton, you tell.
CARLTON: When Marmion went to the Court, he went to see King
James, and he couldn't see him right off, and he sent him to Castle
Tantallon, where Angus Douglas lived, and he stayed there several days,
and when he left he wanted to shake hands with Douglas, but Douglas
would not do it, and said that his castles and nil liis lands were his king's,
but his hand was his own, and he never would shake with Marmion, and
Marmion was very angry, and he said any messengers, no matter how
mean, who were sent there by England, they were Douglas's equal, and
Stenographic Lesson Report 89
if he said Marmion was not equal to any lord in Scotland, he lied, and
Douglas said he should not get away without being punished for saying
that, and he called to the guards to put up the drawbridge, but Marmion
put the spurs to his horse, and got through the gateway and then went
PUPIL: Went to James ' Court first, and on his way back he stopped
at this castle, and he came back with these nuns and took Clare away
from them and kept her with him, and then they had the battle at Flodden
Field, but before that he knew that Ealph De Wilton was the Palmer.
TEACHER: That is not very clear; anyone clear that up? Edward?
EDWARD: After he had left the castle where Douglas was, he noticed
that the Palmer was not with them, and one man said he had seen the
Palmer riding off in armor, and he wouldn't believe it, and Marmion
knew who the Palmer was, and going on to Flodden Field Marmion gives
the battle-cry, and starts off and leaves Clare in charge of two young
knights, and charges to the head of the army and fights very bravely.
TEACHER: A very few words.
EDWARD: Marmion 's horse comes back without a rider, and this young
knight carries him back, and he is dying and asks for water, and Clare
brings him some, and he asks about Constance, and she tells him that
she is dead, and he says some words, " Charge, Chester "
TEACHER: What was that he said?
PUPIL: " Charge Chester, charge! On, Stanley, on! "
TEACHER: There is another part that has been left out altogether.
EDWARD: And then Ealph De Wilton goes in and fights very bravely,
and gains back all his lands, and finally marries Clare.
TEACHER : Margaret ?
MARGARET : He left out that the abbess had told Ralph De Wilton about
the forged letters.
TEACHER: Name all the things you can think of in Marmion that are
characteristic of the Middle Ages.
PUPIL: The feuds.
TEACHER: What do you mean ~by that?
PUPIL: The system of retainers belonging to the lands, and the lands
belonging to the nobles and the nobles belonging to the king.
EDWARD: You could tell because when Marmion said that Ealph De
Wilton had done something, they had a duel, which they would not do
in these days; tournaments; and during the conversation you can tell
it was ancient times and they don't have Palmers now-a-days and they
fought with spears and shields.
TEACHER: You spoke of the tournament; what thing was settled in that
tournament between Ealph De Wilton and Marmion?
PUPIL: Whether Ealph De Wilton had really committed treason against
TEACHER: Did they believe that a tournament could possibly settle a
question of right and wrong?
PUPIL: They thought that God would spare the one in the right.
90 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
TEACHER: Any other things you can think of the author brought into
this poem to show it was the Middle Ages?
PUPIL: The castles he visited all along the road.
TEACHER: Anything else?
PUPIL: The drawbridges, and the way he was entertained at those
PUPIL: And all around the castles they had high walls, and a body of
water all around.
TEACHER: Something else?
PUPIL: You could tell by the kings of that time, James the IV, and
Henry the VIII, and the Battle of Flodden Field.
TEACHER: What things does Scott bring into this poem that make you
feel that it is Middle Ages and warlike time? All these things you have
mentioned, castles, tournaments, etc., show it wasn't that.
PUPIL: They had a portcullis.
TEACHER: The castles were well guarded.
PUPIL: The way of travel in those days.
TEACHER: And they had a guard, you remember, for protection. There
was great danger for Marmion in going through that country. For whom
was he constantly looking out, what people?
PUPIL: The robbers on the borderland; if they were in England, they
were not in Scottish territory, and if they were in Scotland, they were
not on English territory.
TEACHER: What other characteristics of the age have we, one you
have not mentioned, very important? (Refers to picture upon wall cf
PUPILS: The monasteries and the monks.
TEACHER: The influence the Church had at that time. Do you know
what Church was in England at that time?
PUPIL: Eoman Catholic.
TEACHER : Eoman Catholic Church. What were the ideals of the knights
of that period?
PUPIL: They must be brave, fight well, ride well, and be faithful.
TEACHER: Anything else?
PUPIL: They must always be loyal to their king, and help anyone in
TEACHER: These were the chief points. Have you read any stories of
any other knights besides Marmion?
PUPIL: Sir Launfal, Ivanhoe.
PUPIL: All the stories of the Bound Table.
TEACHER: Does that belong to this period?
PUPIL: A little earlier.
TEACHER: Still, you have read about knights and their ideals; any other
PUPIL: Sir Nigel.
TEACHER: Who is the most interesting knight you have read about?
PUPIL : Ivanhoe.
Stenographic Lesson Report 91
TEACHER: Ton liked that "best? How many do?
TEACHER: A good story of a very interesting knight. Do you think
Marmion was a true Tcnight?
PUPIL: I think he was as far as fighting and braveness were concerned,
but when he put Clare in prison, I don't think that showed a good spirit.
TEACHER: Why did he put Clare in prison?
PUPIL: I mean Constance he wanted to marry Clare, and he put Con-
stance in prison to get her out of the way.
TEACHER: Did he put her in there expecting she would ~be killed?
PUPIL : No.
TEACHER: Tour opinion, Arthur?
ARTHUR: He was worse when he forged the letters.
TEACHER: Tou think that was the greatest wrong that he did? How
PUPILS : Yes.
TEACHER: He simply felt that Constance would be taken care of in that
monastery. Do you consider him the hero of the poem?
PUPIL: I do, yes; because it is mostly about him.
TEACHER: Well, you say he is a man guilty of treason, and he certainly
didn't protect the weak, not a hero in that respect.
DOROTHY: I think the hero in a book ought to be a very good man,
and I think the man Scott has in mind to be the hero is Ealph De Wilton.
TEACHER: Tour opinion, Bruce?
BRUCE: I think Ealph De Wilton is the hero in a way, I think
Marmion is a sort of hero, toward the end Marmion is, and Ealph De
Wilton in the beginning.
TEACHER: Which one triumphs in the end?
PUPIL: I think Marmion, I mean Ealph De Wilton.
TEACHER: Tour opinion, Carl?
CARL: I think Marmion; he wasn't a hero through the book, but I
think if he could have revived after he had been hurt, he would have
been a good man; he was sorry when he heard about Constance.
ED: I think he is, it is a sort of an English knight; I don't judge a
man by whether he is good or not, the chief man in the book.
PUPIL: It tells more about Marmion than Ealph De Wilton, but I
don't think he is the hero.
TEACHER: Tou consider EalpJi De Wilton the hero?
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Tou think it was the times rather than the man himself?
PUPILS : Yes.
TEACHER: That is perfectly true; I must confess I think the story is
a little weak in that point, it is called Marmion, but the one who triumphs,
really is Ealph De Wilton.
PUPIL : The most part of it is about Marmion.
92 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
TEACHER : Yes.
PUPIL: So I think you could consider the book well named.
TEACHER: That is perfectly true, but there is that other criticism that
Marmion himself is not the one who triumphs; it is the overthrow, really,
of Marmion, who represents the evil, and Ealph De Wilton the good.
Someone spoke of the worst thing he did, which was treason; does anyone
think that in that time forgery was rather out of harmony?
PUPIL: I don't think he would have done it in anything else; I think
he thought that he knew Clare liked Ealph better than she did him, and
she wanted to get him out of the way.
TEACHER: The author was very consistent in putting his whole story
in the Middle Ages, and that one point of forgery was rather a com-
mercial point. What do you consider the real weakness in Marmion's
PUPIL: He wanted to be so great himself; he wanted everything; and
Constance didn't have any lands and Clare did, so he wanted to marry
her, and he forged the letters.
PUPIL: His weakness was in how he loved people.
TEACHER: What do you mean exactly?
PUPIL: At first he loved Constance, and Clare came along, and he liked
her because she had lands.
TEACHER: He really always loved Constance, didn't he?
PUPIL: His pride and self -conceit, and in the second place he thinks
he is greater than Ealph De Wilton so Clare should like him better; he
says : ' ' I am this wonderful knight . ' '
TEACHER: His conceit, his ambition is really the thing that proves his
downfall. I asked you to select any stanzas that you considered particu-
larly good on account of the color. Did you find one? The canto and the
DOROTHY: Canto I, stanza I.
TEACHER: Bead it out loud.
DOROTHY: "Along the bridge Lord Marmion rode,
Proudly his red-roan charger trode,
His helm hung at the saddle-bow;
Well by his visage you might know
He was a stalwart knight and keen,
And had in many a battle been;
The scar on his brown cheek reveal 'd
A token true of Bosworth field;
His eyebrow dark, and eye of fire,
Show'd spirit proud, and prompt to ire;
Yet lines of thought upon his cheek
Did deep design and counsel speak,
His forehead, by his casque worn bare,
His thick moustache and curly hair,
Coal-black, and grizzled here and there,
Stenographic Lesson Report
But more through toil than age;
His square- turn 'd joints, and strength of limb,
Show'd him no carpet knight so trim,
But in close fight a champion grim,
In camps a leader sage/'
TEACHER: That is a very good description of Marmion there, but has
it much color?
DOROTHY : I think it has.
TEACHER: What part?
DOROTHY: His appearance, his face -
TEACHER: Was bright?
DOROTHY: No it was dark.
TEACHER: 7s that the color? I think that is a capital description, but
I don't think there is much color in it.
DOROTHY: I didn't find any stanza I thought was any better.
TEACHER : Margaret ?
MARGARET : I took Canto IV, and stanza XXVIII.
TEACHER: Just read that part of it that has a good deal of color in it.
MARGARET: It is all through the stanza:
Nor mark'd they less, where in the air
A thousand streamers flaunted fair;
Various in shape, device and hue,
Green, sanguine, purple, red and blue,
Broad, narrow, swallow-tail 'd, and square,
Scroll, pennon, pencil, bandrol, there
O'er the pavilion flew.
Highest and midmost was descried
The royal banner floating wide;
The staff, a pine tree, strong and straight,
Pitched deeply in a massive stone,
Which still in memory is shown,
Yet fcent beneath the standard's weight
Whene'er the western wind unroll 'd
With toil, the huge and cumbrous fold,
And gave to view the dazzling field
Where, in proud Scotland's royal shield,
The ruddy lion ramp'd in gold.
TEACHER: A good deal of motion in that.
MARGARET: And the color of all the different flags.
TEACHER: There was a capital description right after the one you read,
Dorothy, the trappings of the horses
PUPIL: Yes, I think it was light blue.
TEACHER: Any stanza you found with a great deal of action; where
would you look to find a stanza with a great deal of action?
PUPIL: At the end of the book.
TEACHER: What was that?
PUPIL: Flodden Field.
94 The Question as a Measure of Efficiency in Instruction
TEACHER: Anyone find a good stanza there? Margaret?
MARGARET: There was a good deal of action where Marmion
TEACHER: There was a good deal
PUPIL: Where he dashes over the drawbridge.
TEACHER: Yes; any in the battle? Carlton? Turn to the class and
read it aloud.
CARLTON: At length the freshening western blast
Aside the shroud of battle cast;
And first, the ridge of mingled spears
Above the brightening cloud appears;
And in the smoke the pennons flew,
As in the storm the white sea-mew.
Then mark'd they, dashing broad and far,
The broken billows of the war,
And plumed crests of chieftains brave,
Floating like foam upon the wave;
But naught distinct they see;
Wide raged the battle on the plain!
Spears shook, the falchions flash 'd amain;
Fell England's arrow-flight like rain;
Crests rose, and stoop 'd, and rose again,
Wild and disorderly.
TEACHER: That is very good; and the next stanza, in the -fight itself;
how many noticed that?
TEACHER: What passages in Marmion are quoted frequently, Anna?
ANNA: I think where Marmion says good-bye to Douglas, and where
Douglas is angry because Marmion tells him that he has lied.
TEACHER: Why do you suppose that is so frequently selected to be
put into readers?
PUPIL: I think it has so much feeling and so much swing
TEACHER: It has feeling and swing
PUPIL : Yes.
TEACHER: Any other reason? How many can just see those two men,
Douglas and Marmion, pitted against each other? Any other?
PUPIL: O, woman in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the sfiade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou!
TEACHER: Do you believe that?
PUPIL : No.
TEACHER: I don't either; it may have been true at that time.
PUPIL: There is another, where Constance says:
And come he slow, or come he fast,
It is but Death who comes at last.
Stenographic Lesson Report 95
MARGARET: And darest thou then
To beard the lion in his den,
And Douglas in his hall?
TEACHER: How many have read the Lady of the Lake?
TEACHER: Which do you like better, Marmion or the Lady of the Lake?
ED: The Lady of the Lake I read about two years ago in Miss A's
class, and I can remember it, but this I couldn't remember in a couple
DOROTHY: I think I would know right away that I was reading Scott;
the two books; he repeats himself the way Macaulay does; their heroes
are something the same.
TEACHER: It is Scott all the way through. What do you think are
the strong points in Marmion?
PUPIL: I don't know.
TEACHER: How many feel that the descriptions are capital?
TEACHER: I want everyone by Monday to have purchased a copy of
Silas Marner, etc., etc. For to-morrow prepare the grammar on page,
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